Purpose: There has been limited examination of clinician scientist training in Canada, particularly regarding training integration and funding. This study assessed program structure, funding, tuition and mentorship structures available at Canadian MD/PhD programs.
Methods: Clinician Investigator Trainee Association of Canada administered an anonymous survey to current trainees and program directors that captured program structure, trainee funding, tuition and mentorship opportunities and needs across institutions.
Results: In June 2015, 101/228 (44%) trainees and 9/13 (69%) program directors completed the online survey. In all programs, students completed the PhD degree prior to clerkship training. Seven programs offered research training upon completion of pre-clerkship, four offered concurrent clinical and research training, and three offered alternative structures. Nine held seminars exposing students to clinical and research integration and two offered clinician scientist skills courses. Stipend funding and tuition varied, especially during clinical training years. Regarding mentorship, all programs held regular meetings, though eight programs do not have formal mentorship opportunities. Both trainees and program directors identified the need for further career planning and development support as a student priority.
Conclusion: MD/PhD programs varied by program structure, funding, tuition and mentorship opportunities. Mechanisms to share and spread program innovations should be instated. Students may benefit from concurrent research and clinical training as well as courses specific to clinician scientist skill development. Decreasing debt burden may attract and retain trainees in this demanding path. To ensure mentorship programs align with trainee priorities, program directors should directly collaborate with students in their development and evaluation.