MSTP Timeline


1956  –Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine launches the first true dual-degree MD-PhD program

1961 — Nobel Prize-winning geneticist George W. Beadle is named Chancellor and President of the University of Chicago. Beadle seeks to bridge the study of science and the humanities stating, “Science is not opposed to culture any more than culture is opposed to science. Intelligent people seek balance.”

1963 — Dean H. Stanley Bennett invites investigators to visit the University of Chicago to consider its request for a Medical Scientist Training Grant. A year-old dual MD-PHD degree program already exists; the University seeks a second one, an NIH-funded program to support “10 bright students” earning their MD-PhD degrees over the course of five to seven years.

The Oct. 1-2 visit fails to impress; the investigators report that faculty members are time-pressed with limited resources, plans are “vague,” and that the Medical School “exists only as a curriculum, not as a Faculty.” One bright note: Dean for Students Joseph J. Ceithaml is praised as “completely straight-forward, competent and dedicated. Everyone trusts and respects him.”

1964 — UC leaders network and strategize. Provost Edward Levi corresponds with former UC surgeon J. Garrott Allen, chair of surgery at Stanford University. The well-connected Allen’s response: “A goodly amount of the criticism and shortcomings were justified.” Allen promises that another site visit will be scheduled.

1965 — The UC’s request for an MSTP grant is denied again. Beadle sends a handwritten note to Levi, stating he wants to talk to Dean Ceithaml “about this and other things. … I really believe it could be helpful to have his views.”

1967 — Dean Ceithaml obtains federal funding for the MSTP, naming anthropologist-anatomist Ronald Singer, MD, DSC, as the Principal Investigator. MSTP trainees are required to take a Gross Anatomy course, the start of an unusual tradition that persists to this day: dual-degree candidates meet and bond over cadavers in the anatomy lab. Singer, the Robert Bensley Professor, Department of Organismal Biology & Anatomy, teaches the course for generations and sets the benchmark as a dedicated mentor.

1970s — Dean Ceithaml tracks MSTP prospects, their backgrounds and interests in notebooks in the pre-computer era. His ability to remember names, faces and courses of study remains legendary.

1973 — Pathologist Frank Fitch, MD, hosts the first MD-PhD Student Seminar Baking Contest, converting a tin measuring cup and wooden egg cup into a trophy. Fitch, a member of the MSTP admissions committee, mentors 35 PhD and MD-PhD students, seven postdoctoral fellows “and anyone who knocks at his door” during his career.

1976 — Biochemist Wolfgang Epstein, MD, serves as head of the MSTP, filing federal grant applications and reportedly shepherding the program from the late 1970s through the early 1980s.

1978 — Annual funding for the MSTP surpasses $500,000.

1984-85 — Diabetes expert Howard S. Tager, PhD, directs the MSTP, noting that up to 500 students apply for the eight coveted slots. Tager, the Louis Block Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, invites students of the humanities to apply to the program.

1986 — Joseph J. Ceithaml retires at age 70 and Norma Wagoner, PhD, becomes Dean of Students. Wolfgang Epstein, MD, returns as director of the MSTP and serves at the post through 1990.

1991 — Spanish-born pathology professor Jose Quintans, MD, PhD, is named director of the MSTP, a post he will hold for nearly two decades.

1994 — Annual NIH funding for the UChicago MSTP exceeds $1 million for the first time.

1999-2000 — The Frank Family of Winnetka launches the Frank Family Fellowship to enable exceptional MSTP students to acquire doctoral training in the sciences while becoming physicians.

2000s — The number of students admitted yearly to the highly competitive program rises to 15. Most students require eight years to complete both degrees.

2002 — CEO James Madara, MD, is named Dean of the Division of Biological Sciences and the Pritzker School of Medicine, positions he will hold until 2009.

2003 —  Holly J. Humphrey, MD, the Ralph W. Gerard Professor in Medicine, is named Dean for Medical Education at the University of Chicago. The MSTP expands the definition of diversity, accepting arguably the youngest MD-PhD candidate in history. Sho Yano, age 12, goes on to earn his PhD in 2009 at age 18 and his medical degree in 2012 at age 21.

2010 — Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, is named Dean of the Division of the Biological Sciences and the Pritzker School of Medicine, and Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs of the University of Chicago. Pritzker’s Office of Multicultural Affairs hosts a camp to help multicultural and disadvantaged students build premed skills.

2011 — The MSTP says farewell to 20-year director Jose Quintans and welcomes new director Marcus Clark, MD, Professor of Medicine and Pathology, Chief, Section of Rheumatology. Under Clark, the MSTP administration is reorganized to improve recruitment, mentoring and retention of students. Formal ethics training is added to the curriculum. Requests for the grant budget near $3 million annually.

2013 —Joseph J. Ceithaml, PhD, dean of students emeritus for the Pritzker School of Medicine and the Biological Sciences Division, professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular biology, dies at age 96. Polonsky, Humphrey and other guests pay tribute to his legacy at a campus memorial.

2014 — The MSTP implements Individual Development Plans to encourage students to reflect on their progress and shape their scholastic, research, career and professional development. Students are now required to take Intro to Biostatistics during lab rotations plus an MBL Boot Camp in Quantitative Biology to jumpstart their careers as research scientists.

2015 — Ongoing diversity initiatives include coordinated recruitment, student-faculty meetings and alliances with organizations including the Minority Association of Pre-Med Students and Association on High Education and Disability. More than 33 percent of MSTP matriculates are minorities. Two extra grants are requested for the MD-PhD training of Oxford-Cambridge scholars.

2016 — The MSTP launches initiatives to engage alumni. Facebook and retreats become popular options. Women make up 75 percent of the entering cohort.

2017— The MSTP celebrates its 50th anniversary with an historic June 23 reunion/symposium on the University campus, followed by an off-campus retreat with alumni, current students, faculty, and MSTP leadership.


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