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MD/PhD Program

The MD/ PhD degree option provides an opportunity for medical students to develop advanced research expertise and skills while earning a PhD degree in addition to the MD degree. Several MD/PhD degree options will be offered that meet the requirements of both the MD and the participating PhD programs at East Carolina University. It is recognized that the participating PhD programs will integrate with the medical curriculum to varying degrees, and therefore each option will have a unique curriculum.


Only students enrolled in the MD program can apply to the MD/PhD option at East Carolina University. Although students may apply at any time after their enrollment in the MD program, they cannot begin the PhD component until after successful completion of the USMLE Step I exam. All applicants must have completed at least one summer research preceptorship in one of the participating departments, or have completed a research based Masters degree in a related area prior to application to the MD/PhD option. It is recommended that interested students contact programs offering the MD/PhD option as early as possible about research opportunities within the department.

Admissions Procedures

All applicants MUST first petition the Dean of the Medical School through the Office of Student Affairs (MD program) for a Leave of Absence prior to application to the MD/ PhD program. The Office of Student Affairs will at that time discuss with the student how their current MD program will be altered by entry into the MD/PhD program.

All applicants MUST then submit the standard Graduate School Application with the following modifications:

  • A GRE exam is not required, although the scores should be reported if available. (NOTE: The applicant’s MCAT scores will be evaluated in place of the GRE).
  • The Graduate School application fee is waived.
  • Only a transcript denoting courses taken since enrollment in the Brody School of Medicine is required. (NOTE: Transcript grades listed on the student’s AMCAS application will be used to document the courses completed prior to entry into the Brody School of Medicine).
  • Only one letter of reference from someone knowledgeable about an applicant’s aptitude and ability to perform research is required. This letter must use the reference form included in the Graduate School Application. (NOTE: Reference letters in the applicant’s School of Medicine application may also be used as character references).
  • A Statement of Purpose essay must be submitted describing the applicant’s reason for pursuing the MD/PhD option.
  • Applicant interviews are required.

Each participating PhD program decides on the admissibility of the students into their respective MD/PhD option. However, the Office of Student Affairs (MD program) will also have a representative holding ECU Graduate Faculty status on each admissions committee considering a MD/PhD applicant.


Each participating PhD program must develop a curriculum that (1) meets all departmental and Graduate School requirements for the PhD degree and (2) allows for maximum flexibility in course requirements. It is expected that participating programs will award credit for the successful completion (i.e. grades of A or B) of courses in the medical curriculum that are comparable to courses in the PhD curriculum. A list of medical courses for which credit will be given must be publicized so that prospective applicants can make informed decisions before applying to specific MD/ PhD options. Otherwise all accepted medical students are subject to the same procedures, and academic standards as all other doctoral students in the PhD program.

NOTE: Each participating PhD program must submit to the Graduate School Administrative Board a listing of those medical courses for which credit will be given prior to offering the MD/PhD option. It is expected that the program will periodically review these courses to verify their continued appropriateness. The Graduate School Administrative Board must be notified of any changes in course credit.

In addition, the program may recommend that MD/PhD applicants who have completed previous graduate work be granted transfer credit as is allowed by current Graduate School policy. The transfer credit is subject to further approval by the departmental chairperson and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Duration of the Program

The accepted student will receive a Leave of Absence for up to four years from the MD curriculum in order to complete the requirements for the PhD degree. The student must petition the Dean of the Medical School for any additional leave time beyond the four years. MD/PhD students MUST spend a minimum of two years in residence in the PhD curriculum.

Eligibility for Stipends

All students enrolled in the PhD portion of the MD/PhD option are eligible for the same financial support given to other doctoral students in the PhD program.

Oversight of the MD/PhD Options

Both the MD and PhD curricula will be supervised by their respective administrative structures. However, the Office of Student Affairs (MD program), and the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies (SOM) will each have one, non-voting ex officio member on all of the student’s graduate committees including pre-candidacy and dissertation research committees. These members must hold either a PhD or MD degree and be a member of the ECU Graduate Faculty. The ex officio members and the chairman of the department can jointly recommend to the Deans of both the Graduate and Medical Schools that the Leave of Absence be terminated at any time if they decide that appropriate progress is not being made toward completion of the PhD. The student would then reenter the MD curriculum as prescribed by the Office of Student Affairs (MD program).

Completion of the PhD Curriculum

Each student MUST COMPLETE ALL requirements for the PhD degree including the research, writing of the dissertation, seminar, defense of the dissertation, and submission of the dissertation to the Graduate School prior to reentry into the MD program.

As the student enters the anticipated final year of the PhD program, the Office of Student Affairs (MD program) will prescribe a mechanism by which the student can reenter the MD curriculum. This will include an appropriate clinical skills component which can be completed concurrently with the completion of the PhD.

More Information

For further information regarding the MD/PhD program and to obtain an application, contact Dr. Susan Schmidt via email at or phone at 252-744-2278 in the Brody School of Medicine Office of Student Affairs.