First Steps in Research (2)

Second Symposium


In May 2010 Collegio Volta is holding the second of its graduate symposia. The rationale for this initiative has been offered in the notes accompanying the first symposium in May 2009 and will not be reiterated here. These notes will highlight instead a key component of the second Symposium, namely a proposal for a new MB/PhD programme.

The contributors to the discussion on the MB/PhD proposal will be G Stewart, T Cox and J Jamieson (Directors of the MB/PhD programmes of UCL, Cambridge and Yale respectively) and E Gherardi. The speakers will outline the origin and purpose of MB/PhD schemes and the rationale for the intercalated MB/PhD (E Gherardi) and the  features of the schemes operating at UCL, Cambridge and Yale. The outcome of this work from the 2nd Graduate Symposium will be a formal proposal for an MB/PhD to be submitted to the Medical School and the University of Pavia.

Pavia has an established medical school and a strong research base in biomedical sciences. It is very well placed, therefore for initiating a programme aimed at training a selected number of medical students in research. The approach suggested by the medical scientists who are contributing to the discussion on the MB/PhD programme as part of the Graduate Smposium at Volta is a so-called intercalated scheme in which the PhD component is inserted between the pre-clinical Course and the clinical one.

Medical sciences constitute a special research challenge because health and disease are shaped by a complex interplay of genetic, environmental and socio/economical factors, as a result of which clinical research often displays extraordinary complexity. Advances in medical sciences therefore require a rigorous training not only in Medicine but also in research methodology. For over a century and a half research training has built on PhD programmes but the medical curriculum is long and complex and the addition of a PhD course adds a further and considerable period of study and research, typically 3 years or more. There is a need therefore to deliver the PhD element of an MB/PhD scheme in the most effective way and all contributors to the discussion argue for a Course of study in which the PhD element is inserted between the pre-clinical and clinic years.

The MB/PhD scheme proposed at the Volta symposium involves competitive admission of selected students to the PhD programme at the end of their pre-clinical Course and admission to the clinical Course at the end of year 6, upon successful completion of the PhD Course. Thus the whole MB/PhD Course will take 9 years to complete. It is anticipated that close interactions and exchanges will develop between students enrolled in the prospective MB/PhD scheme in Pavia and students enrolled in the MB/PhD programmes at Northern European Universities, especially Cambridge and UCL.

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