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College of Medicine – Tucson Wins NIH Grant for Medical Scientist Student Training

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TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson is creating a Medical Scientist Training Program that will support students in the MD/PhD dual-degree program thanks to a new grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Todd Vanderah, PhD, says the Medical Scientist Training Program grant will help recruit and train students who are pursuing dual MD/PhD degrees at the College of Medicine –Tucson.The $805,000 grant, funded over five years, will help pay for tuition and stipends for three students who enroll in the College of Medicine – Tucson’s MD/PhD dual-degree program. Established in 1988, it is the first dual-degree program in Arizona – and one of only 52 in the nation – to receive a Medical Scientist Training Program grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a division of the NIH. 

“This grant will be helpful to our mission of recruiting and training future physician-scientists who can benefit the state of Arizona. We are grateful to be awarded such a highly competitive grant. It recognizes the outstanding students, faculty and staff who constitute our MD/PhD program,” said Todd Vanderah, PhD, co-director of the MD/PhD program and one of four principal investigators on the grant.

Gregory Branigan, a fifth-year student and founding member of the program’s executive committee, is one of 34 students currently enrolled in the MD/PhD program.

“The College of Medicine – Tucson’s MD/PhD program provides excellent and impactful dual-degree training while giving students opportunities to grow as both individuals and independent future physician-scientists,” Branigan said. “We believe in a strong, supportive community and are united in our shared passion for science and medicine in the pursuit of patient care and discovery science. We deeply believe that there is no better training for aspiring physician-scientists.”

According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Medical Scientist Training Program grants were created to develop and implement effective, evidence-informed approaches to integrated dual-degree training. In order to qualify for the awards, dual-degree programs must demonstrate rigorous scientific research and training.

In addition to the award, the college also received a $75,000 philanthropic commitment from Joy Bunt, MD, PhD, who earned her medical degree at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson. Over the next five years, her commitment will fund a new summer research program for incoming first-year MD/PhD students. The program will allow students to identify laboratories, projects and research mentors prior to the start of the academic year.

“We are very grateful for Dr. Bunt’s generous commitment,” Dr. Vanderah said. “As a physician-scientist, she understands the unique challenges of rigorous academic programs, and her contribution will help future dual-degree students get a head start and be even better prepared for success at the college and beyond.”

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