Purpose: Despite the documented contribution of graduates of MD-PhD programs to the medical profession, few data exist concerning the views, attitudes, and career goals of students before they graduate from such programs.
Method: All 167 students enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Combined Degree Program in the spring of 2002 were invited to participate in an IRB-approved online questionnaire consisting of 81 multiple-choice questions covering students' demographics, satisfaction with their educational experience, future goals and career aspirations, and attitudes and views concerning the physician-scientist model.
Results: The 96 MD-PhD students (57.5%) who completed the questionnaire represented a diverse group with individuals from every stage of training. The majority of students were satisfied with their overall educational experience (90.5%). Although students reported an interest in a wide range of clinical specialties, 84.4% indicated plans to pursue a career in research and 79.2% preferred a position at an academic medical center. However, a larger percentage of males (70.7%) than females (50.0%) listed research as their primary professional activity. The range of students' views and attitudes regarding the physician-scientist model suggests that additional education and discussion are warranted.
Conclusion: The MD-PhD students surveyed at the University of Pennsylvania were satisfied with their education and most were planning research-oriented careers. Yet, the aspirations, views and concerns of individual MD-PhD students were varied. The authors believe this information in aggregate will prove useful to current and future students, combined degree programs, policymakers, and residency directors.