MD/PhD Combined Degree in Nutrition & Metabolism

The Combined MD/PhD Program is offered in collaboration with the BU Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine and Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS). MD/PhD candidates must fulfill the requirements for both the MD and the PhD degrees. Please consult with the Chobanian & Avedisian SOM Admissions office for information on applying to the MD/PhD program, as well as the curriculum for the MD portion of the program.

This MD/PhD program is designed for, and open to, highly qualified individuals who are strongly motivated toward a career in both medicine and research. The purpose of the program is to provide students with the opportunity to obtain advanced education and research training in biomedical sciences as well as clinical medicine. The PhD portion of the dual degree program is part of the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS). This “umbrella” program incorporates didactic coursework during the first year of PhD studies through the Foundations in Biomedical Sciences (FBS) curriculum. In addition to the didactic coursework, students rotate through at least two research laboratories, enabling the selection of a dissertation research laboratory home. Students who choose to complete their research in the area of nutrition and metabolism will also be required to complete Nutrition & Metabolism core curriculum requirements.

The program expects to produce graduates who are superbly trained clinicians prepared for careers in teaching and research as well as clinical medicine. Graduates of the program will be prepared for productive careers in basic science, translational research, and clinical or epidemiologic research with a focus on nutrition and metabolism.

Learning Outcomes

Learning objectives for the MD/PhD program include the following:

  • Understand the scientific basis for nutrient requirements.
  • Demonstrate ability to assess relevant scientific literature and synthesize existing knowledge in nutrition and metabolism with new research information.
  • Understand the molecular, cellular, biochemical, physiological, and behavioral mechanisms that influence nutrient utilization, food intake, and energy balance.
  • Understand the mechanistic connections of nutrient status to health and disease.
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate your knowledge of the field of nutrition and metabolism through effective presentation and writing skills.

Degree Requirements

Students admitted directly to the MD/PhD program will begin their training with the first two years of the standard Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine curriculum. To matriculate into the doctoral years, MD/PhD students must be eligible at that time to matriculate into the third year of medical school. Therefore, they must have no first- or second-year courses that are incomplete. During the completion of the FBS curriculum (the first year of doctoral study), students will be eligible to begin the first of their rotations to select a laboratory for the completion of their doctoral dissertation work. A second rotation may also be completed. Once these requirements are completed, and upon acceptance into a Nutrition & Metabolism laboratory, the student begins doctoral education and research training in Nutrition & Metabolism.

In addition to the above, MD/PhD candidates must fulfill all other requirements for the Nutrition & Metabolism program, including passing a two-part qualifying exam that includes a written examination and an oral defense of a grant proposal. In addition to coursework, students are expected to attend bimonthly professional training sessions for MD/PhD students.

For the completion of the doctoral dissertation research, the Nutrition & Metabolism program requires five Advisory Committee members, including the chair (who must be a GMS faculty member), the primary mentor, and at least one outside member. The committee must meet at least once annually to discuss the progress of the dissertation research, or more often as the situation warrants. Once the Dissertation Advisory Committee determines that the research work is complete, the student writes and orally defends the dissertation.

The oral defense and submission of the dissertation must be completed and approved prior to returning to the third year of the medical school curriculum.



The applicant must meet the requirements for admission to both the Chobanian & Avedisian SOM, as a candidate for the MD, and to Graduate Medical Sciences, as a candidate for the PhD. The minimum entrance requirements and the prerequisite courses for the Chobanian & Avedisian SOM are the same as those for GMS. Applicants for the MD/PhD will be required to submit only the results of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and not those of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Successful applicants must also have carried out research during their undergraduate programs or postgraduate years.


Applicants to the MD/PhD program applying as first-year students will initially be screened for their admissibility to the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine using the same criteria for admission as students applying only to the Chobanian & Avedisian SOM. Please consult with the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine Admissions office for information on how to apply to the MD/PhD program, as well as details of the curriculum for the MD component. After determination of acceptability into the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, application for the MD/PhD program will be submitted to the MD/PhD Admissions Committee for processing through the normal channels for admission to this dual degree program. It is strongly recommended that at least one of the letters of reference should come from the research laboratory in which the applicant worked. This will typically be a person in the academic profession who has personal knowledge of the applicant’s qualifications for graduate study and research ability. Applicants applying while in residence in the Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine or GMS should obtain application information from the MD/PhD program’s director.