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M.D. with Distinction in Research

Powerpoint presentation describing program

Goals and Objectives

The MD with Distinction in Research Program provides UT Health Science Center at San Antonio medical students with an opportunity to spend part of their medical school career doing sustained work in basic, clinical, translational or social sciences. We expect that this program will be very helpful in helping students shape their career goals and building an academic track record that will be viewed favorably by residency selection committees.

Those students who are currently working on a graduate degree from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences or the Masters of Public Health program will not be able to use the same research for the MD with Distinction degree.

Specific Objectives include:

  • All students who enter the program will successfully complete the program.

  • Students in the program will present their work at a regional or national scientific meeting.

  • Students in the program will be successful in getting their thesis manuscripts published in a peer-reviewed medical or scientific journal.

  • A greater percent of students in the program will enter into academic research careers than will students not in the program or in the MD/PhD program.


Program Summary

  • The M.D. with Distinction in Research Advisory and Review Committee met monthly to review progress reports and applications.  Students may apply at any time during their first and second years of medical school. 

  • If the application is made prior to the deadline or Medical Student Summer Research Program it will automatically be considered for funding available through that program without the need to submit a separate funding application.

  • Students must commit a minimum of 4 months during medical school to the program.  We strongly suggest that the first 8 weeks of the program be completed in the summer break between the first and second year. The additional time will be completed in the third and fourth years in research elective blocks or depending on the research project, during free time (Holidays, evenings, weekends) “on top of” other academic activities.

  • A research log consisting of time spent in research project activities is required. This log, verified by the mentor each month, must be turned in to the office of the School of Medicine Associate Dean for Research at the end of the initial summer block and every 6 months until completion of the program. It is the student’s responsibility to keep the research log up to date and to obtain the mentor’s signature verifying work on a monthly basis.

  • A progress report must be submitted, including a completed evaluation form by the mentor every 6 months until completion of the program.

  • The projects must be done under the mentorship of at least one UT Health Science Center at San Antonio faculty member, who must play a role in the project from beginning to end. Research completed by the student prior to entering medical school cannot be substituted for the research requirement of this program.

  • A stipend of up to $2,000 is available through the Medical Dean’s office through this program. Funds are limited and are awarded to those students with outstanding projects. The specific selection criteria can be found on the Medical Dean’s Research Website under Medical Student Summer Research Stipend Program.  No other funding is available to students participating in the program from the Dean’s Office.

  • The work done over the summer between first and second year of medical school must be presented as a poster at the Medical Student Research Day held each fall. Funds for printing the poster are provided by the Medical Dean’s Office.

  • Students who participate in the program will be required to take, as appropriate for their project, University training in Responsible Conduct in Research and must complete all regulatory requirements (e.g. Institutional Review Board, Lab Animal and Radiation Safety Training, etc.).

  • Students must be in good academic standing and maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.5 to be eligible for the program and must maintain good academic standing to continue in it. Failure to satisfy administrative requirements (e.g. Research log, attendance at the Summer Research Symposium, Presentation at Medical Student Research Day, and compliance with regulatory requirements) may also lead to dismissal from the program.

  • At the conclusion of the research project, and by no later than February 15 of the graduation year, a manuscript must be submitted to the office of the School of Medicine Associate Dean for Research. This must be in the form of a scientific manuscript that is suitable for submission to a peer-reviewed scientific/medical journal appropriate for the subject of the project. This manuscript must be written by the student with help from their mentor.  The student must be the first author of this manuscript.  All students are encouraged to present their work at local and National meetings and to submit their manuscript for publication.  Funds may be available through the Medical dean’s Office to support registration fees and travel expenses to these meetings.  Please check with the Office of the School of Medicine Associate Dean for Research for how to access these funds.

  • All manuscript submissions will be reviewed by the MD with Distinction in Research Evaluation Committee. If the Committee deems the work worthy and the student has completed all administrative requirements, the student will be awarded an MD degree with Distinction in Research.  

 MD with Distinction in Research Application


Evaluation Criteria for Entering the Program:

The student applying for the MD with Distinction in Research Program must submit an application containing the following information:

  • Student’s Resume using the NIH PHS 398 format (maximum of 2 pages)

  • Student’s Personal Statement. Explain how participation in the Medical Student Research Program would benefit you and the role you will play in the described research project (1 page)

  • Mentor’s Resume using the NIH PHS 398 format (maximum of 2 pages)

  • Summary of mentor’s current and completed extramural funding (maximum of 2 pages)

  • Mentoring Plan (maximum of 2 pages). Present a systematic plan that:

    • Shows a logical progression from the student’s prior research and training experiences to the training and research experiences that will occur during the award period

    • Includes both didactic and research components

      • How often will the mentor meet with the student? 

      • Who else will be responsible for mentoring the student?

      • What are the expectations the mentor has for the student regarding attendance at conferences or other educational activities and how do these activities enhance the student’s research experience?

      • List the specific resources available to the student to perform the project

    • If the mentor is sponsoring applications from several students working on different aspects of a similar problem, it is extremely important to clarify the specific aspects each student will be working on

  • Project Description (written by student with input from mentor). All of the following elements must be included in the Project Description. (maximum of 5 pages for sections a. through d.; maximum of 1 page for section e) Project Descriptions exceeding 5 pages, including the bibliography, will not be reviewed.

    • Specific Aim(s)

    • Background and Significance

    • Research Plan

      • Study population

      • Study design and research methods

      • Sample size, including sample size justification

      • Statistical analysis plan

      • Expected results

      • Potential pitfalls/alternative approaches

    • Timeline for completion of the project

    • Brief bibliography (do not exceed 1 page)



  • Quality of the candidate's academic record (as evidenced by verification of current average grade from course directors).

  • Commitment to research (1-page letter from student describing reason for applying to the program).

  • Quality of the letter of reference from mentor named in the application.  This should address:

    1. Evidence of the student's ability to interact and collaborate with other scientists.

    2. Prior training and how it relates to the objectives of the project.

    3. The student’s research efforts to this point in his/her research career, including any publications, prior research interests and experience or evidence for anticipated capacity for performing research.

Research Plan
We recognize that an individual with limited research experience is less likely to be able to prepare a research plan with the breadth and depth of that submitted by a more experienced investigator.  Nevertheless, a fundamentally sound research plan that is consistent with the student's level of research development must be provided. Organize the research plan using the application form and include:

  • Specific Aims

  • Background and Significance

  • Preliminary Results

  • Research Design and Methods (including a description of all research methods, sample size, justification for the selected sample size, statistical analysis plan, expected results and pitfalls)

  • Timeline for Completion of the Project

  • Bibliography 

  • The student must work closely with the mentor on the development of this section. The research plan cannot exceed 5 pages, including the bibliography. The research plan will be evaluated for adherence to these requirements and also according to the following criteria: 

    • Usefulness of the research plan as a vehicle for enhancing existing research skills. 

    • Scientific and technical merit of the research question, design and methodology judged in the context of the candidate's previous training and experience.

    • Time-line and feasibility of the research project over a 4-6 month time period.

Mentoring Plan

  • The student must name a primary sponsor (or mentor), who, together with the student, is responsible for the planning, direction, and execution of the program.  The student may also nominate co-mentors as appropriate to the goals of the program. 

  • A 2-page NIH Biosketch and list of the mentor’s past, current and pending grant support is required.

    1. The mentor should be recognized as an accomplished investigator in the proposed research area and have a track record of success in training research trainees.

    2. The mentor should have sufficient independent research funding to support the proposed research project in excess of the allowable costs of this award.

    3. The mentor should have a history of research productivity and peer-reviewed support.

    4. The mentor should have adequate active/pending support for the proposed research project.

  • Strength of the mentor's statement describing a well-outlined mentoring plan tailored for the student, including (2 pages):

    1. Information on their research qualifications and previous experience as a research supervisor;

    2. A mentoring plan describing the nature of the supervision and mentoring that will occur during the proposed award period

    3. Agreement to perform every 6-month evaluations on the student’s progress

    4. If a co-mentor is named, a description of the co-mentor’s role is required


Review/Evaluation Criteria for Students in the Program:
An MD with Distinction in Research Committee will consist of a group of 6 UT Health Science Center at San Antonio faculty members with research and mentoring experience plus the Associate Dean for Research, UTHSCSA School of Medicine serving as committee chair. This group will review all applications and determine whether or not the student meets the criteria (above) for the program. Selection factors include the student’s commitment to research, research project and qualifications, funding and written plan submitted by the mentor. Students will have the opportunity to respond to the committee’s concerns with an amended application if the initial application is not successful.
Members of the MD with Distinction in Research Committee will review the posters presented by students in the program at Medical Student Research Day.  Failure to present a poster at Medical Student Research Day will result in dismissal from the program.
The Committee members will review the 6-month evaluations, progress report and research time logs for all students in the program for evidence for satisfactory progress. Students will receive a written progress evaluation from the Committee. If progress is not considered to be satisfactory, a meeting will be scheduled with the student and their mentor and a remedial plan will be established. If suitable progress is not made at the time of the next 6 month evaluation, the student will be dropped from the program.
The Committee members will evaluate the student manuscript. While acceptance of the thesis for publication is not required, all students in the program are encouraged to submit their theses for publication. Students who submit a satisfactory manuscript and complete all other administrative requirements will be granted an MD degree with Distinction in Research.

Program Evaluation/Outcome Measures:
1.         Number of students successfully completing the program
2.         Number of meeting presentations by students in the program
3.         Number of publications by students in the program
4.         Types of residency training of students in the program
5.         Post-residency employment of students in the program
6.         Number of students in the program with research careers
7.         Grants obtained by students in the program
8.         Student evaluations of program
9.         Mentor evaluations of program

Contact Information
David L. Henzi, Ed.D..
Assistant Dean for Academic Enhancement
Office of Student Affairs
UT Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine
7703 Floyd Curl Drive
San Antonio, TX
Phone: 210-567-4469
Fax: 210-567-6962


Christian Welch – MD with Distinction Participant