Purpose: This study aims at a first evaluation of the outcome of the Swiss national MD-PhD program during the last 16 years.
Method: One hundred and twenty six former and current students in the Swiss national MD-PhD program were surveyed via a Web-based questionnaire in September 2007. Twenty-four questions assessed information regarding participant demographics, information on the PhD thesis and publication activity, current positions and research activity, as well as participant's opinions, attitudes and career goals.
Results: Eighty questionnaires were received from 126 MD-PhD students and graduates (63.5% response rate). The responders consisted of present students (36%), former graduates (56%), and dropouts (8%). The percentage of women in the program was 23%, and the average duration of the program was 4.2 +/- 1.4 years. Research interests were predominantly in the fields of neuroscience, immunology, molecular biology and cancer research. A considerable portion of the MD-PhD graduates had an excellent publication record stemming from their PhD research work, and 89% were planning to continue a research-orientated career. Over 50% of those MD-PhD graduates completing their thesis before 2002 had already reached an assistant or full professor position at the time of the survey. Nearly all participants considered the MD-PhD training helpful to their career and high quality standards were assigned to the acquired practical and intellectual skills. However, criticism was expressed concerning the general mentoring and the career related mentoring. Moreover, general mentoring and career related mentoring were significantly less well perceived in research groups employing more than seven PhD students at the same time.
Conclusions: The MD-PhD students and graduates surveyed were satisfied with their education and most of them continued a research-orientated career. Regarding the overall positive evaluation, this study supports the view that MD-PhD graduates are well qualified for a successful career in academic medicine.