MD/Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI)

Combining medical education with training and experience in clinical research prepares clinician-researchers to improve patient health as well as health care. The dual degree program is appealing to those students who are interested in pursuing careers in the areas of medicine and clinical research in either an academic environment or pharmaceutical or biotechnology industry setting.

The program is designed as a five-year, full-time experience, although accommodations can be made for students who need more time to complete the dual degree. Senior faculty with clinical and research expertise will both instruct and mentor students throughout the program. The required research thesis is designed to allow the student to demonstrate research skills. Students will also develop fine-tuned clinical research skills as they complete 240 hours of a clinical research practicum in either an academic institution or in industry.

The Master of Science in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) program exists within the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM). As an entity of BUSM, students are provided with opportunities and are exposed to resources that are part of the School of Medicine, the School of Public Health, the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Boston Medical Center, two VA administrations, and BioSquare. All of this offers students endless opportunities for personal, academic, and professional development.

The MSCI program teaches students the scientific fundamentals of human research. Courses in this curriculum provide an in-depth look at all of the key elements in clinical investigation, including: trial design, trial management, biostatistics, ethical issues, and clinical research regulations. Other courses cover how basic science discoveries translate into clinical investigation and new therapies.

The complete Clinical Investigation program for the dual degree involves 18 credit hours of coursework; a research “practicum,” which includes hands-on involvement in a clinical research project(s) under a scientific mentor; and a clinical research thesis.

The MSCI program is designed for anyone interested in a career in clinical research. This includes those holding an MD or PhD interested in becoming independent principal investigators, as well as those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees who seek advancement in a research career in industry or academic settings. The program provides students with a rigorous academic experience, and hands-on exposure to and practical experience in clinical research. MSCI graduates will be prepared to enter the workforce as competently trained clinical research professionals.

Curriculum

Degree Requirements

To earn both degrees, students must complete the required classroom and clinical coursework for the MD degree and 18 additional credit hours of Clinical Investigation coursework, as well as the practicum and thesis.

For MD/MSCI students, the credits required for the MSCI are fulfilled as follows:

  1. MD/MSCI students earn 14 credits toward the MSCI for completing designated courses required for their MD degree. The cost for these 14 credits is covered by medical school tuition; there is no additional cost.
  2. The remaining 18 credits toward the MSCI degree are as follows:
    • Designing Clinical Research Studies (4 cr)
    • Biostatistics with Computing (4 cr)
    • Regulatory and Compliance Issues in Clinical Research (4 cr)
    • Management of Clinical Trials (4 cr)
    • Seminar in Clinical Research (2 cr)

Students must earn at least a grade of Pass in all medical school courses and must maintain at least a grade point average of 3.0 (on a scale of 4.0) in GMS CI courses.

Practicum Requirement for MSCI

The goal of the practicum experience is to provide the student hands-on exposure to clinical research. The student will work with a research mentor and will be actively involved in the development, execution, and evaluation of a clinical research project or project(s). During the practicum, it is expected that the student will be exposed to:

  • clinical research planning
  • protocol preparation
  • interaction with Institutional Review Boards
  • regulatory requirements
  • selection of subjects/consent process
  • data collection
  • study monitoring
  • data analysis

These various activities will most likely require involvement in more than one research project.

The practicum may be completed with a research mentor who is actively conducting clinical research studies within a clinical research or hospital setting, and will usually be an investigator on the study or studies that the student is using for his/her thesis. The practicum may also be performed under the direction of a clinical research professional within a drug, device, or biotechnology company, a clinical research organization (CRO), or site management organization (SMO) actively involved in clinical trials. MSCI faculty can assist students in finding an appropriate practicum, but it is the student’s responsibility to find a practicum site.

Thesis Requirement for MSCI

Students in the MSCI program are required to complete a thesis that provides a culminating experience and applies the principles and methods learned in the coursework to a real-life clinical study. Students generally identify their research mentor and develop their thesis proposal while they are completing their course work or practicum. The thesis research must involve the analysis and interpretation of data. Students are encouraged but are not required to conduct primary data collection.

Eligibility and Application Procedures

All medical students accepted to BUSM are eligible to apply to the MD/MSCI dual degree program. Students interested in the MD/MSCI program should apply first to BUSM. Once accepted to BUSM, students who decide to apply to the MD/MSCI program should submit an application directly to the MD/MSCI program director before February 15 of the third year of medical school. You are encouraged to discuss the program with the director and apply as early as possible once you matriculate to BUSM; however, note that if you enroll in the program and change your mind, you may opt out without penalty.