Ph.D. and M.D.- Ph.D. in Clinical Investigation


What kind of career will the PhD in clinical investigation prepare a person for who doesn’t have an MD?

The preponderance of PhD programs are categorical, allowing a student to clearly identify with the school or department sponsoring their doctorate (e.g. PhD in Epidemiology from a school of public health or Chemistry from a university department) and follow the career trajectories set by their predecessors, if not by the doctoral training itself. The Harold and Muriel Block Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at Einstein and Montefiore aims to train researchers who can bridge academic fields and methodologies to foster findings that will improve human health. Our doctoral program is embedded in a basic science graduate program but one that is changing to foster students who want to expand their perspective and skills in clinical research methods. This will enable them to conduct research in human tissues, patients, and populations.

Our students will be uniquely suited for independent research careers in medical school environments to do population–based or patient–oriented research that might, for example, ask mechanistic questions or identify novel biomarkers for disease. The breadth and depth of the mentored research experience will provide the basis for post-doctoral and then independent research, similar to basic science PhD training. PhDs may be comfortable collaborating with basic scientists and also physicians in practice to conduct their research. The pharmaceutical industry is also an environment where the combined familiarity with basic science and clinical research skills is in demand.

As the NIH-funded MD-PhD programs in clinical and translational research mature, PhDs from our program will find a group of researchers who as group are thinking in new ways. A newly formed Society for Clinical and Translational Science has been formed will serve as meeting place.


How long will it take to complete this PhD compared to a PhD in a basic science lab?

There really is no difference in length of time to PhD. Both are equally rigorous. For PhD students it is expected that 4-5 years are spent before earning the PhD. This includes the didactic requirements and thesis research.MSTP students take7-8 years to complete the MD-PhD, including 3-4 years dedicated to their thesis research and 4 years of medical school.


Are translational projects permitted if I work in wet-bench lab?

Yes, the definition of clinical research includes the use of human specimens where the investigator is in contact with the population or patients that he or she is studying. In fact, the tenets of clinical research methodology underscore the heterogeneity and distinctly human characteristics that affect research in humans. This knowledge would distinguish a PhD student who solely trained in a wet-bench lab.


If I take the Clinical Investigation Track am I still in the Einstein MSTP or PhD program in the Graduate Division?

Yes, all students in the clinical investigation are full-fledged members of their respective programs, the MSTP or the PhD program which are part of the Graduate Division of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The Harold and Muriel Block Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at Einstein and Montefiore has been granted status as a Department in the Graduate Division to facilitate oversight and support of students in the Clinical Investigation track. Our faculty and Mentors all have academic appointments, most in the Department of Epidemiology & Population Health and other Clinical Departments.


Can a doctoral thesis in clinical research be hypothesis driven and investigator initiated?

In fact, like any doctoral thesis in our graduate school, the work must be investigator initiated and hypothesis driven. No matter whether the research undertaken fits the definition of basic science, translational, or clinical research, good science is good science. Perhaps the reason this question is even raised is that some people erroneously equate “clinical research” with the process of enrolling patients in industry-sponsored clinical trials. While this is a valuable activity, it clearly would not meet the scientific standards of a doctoral dissertation, and is not what this track would promote or accept. We seek students who will conduct excellent, innovative, rigorous, hypothesis-driven research that meets the broad definition of clinical investigation: studies on human materials, patients, or populations, including behavioral and epidemiological as well as mechanistic and patient-oriented research.

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