Characteristics and outcomes of Canadian MD/PhD program graduates: a cross-sectional survey

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  1. Michael A. Skinnider, BArtsSc,
  2. Jordan W. Squair, MSc,
  3. David D.W. Twa, BSc,
  4. Jennifer X. Ji, BSc,
  5. Alexandra Kuzyk, BSc,
  6. Xin Wang, PhD,
  7. Patrick E. Steadman, MSc,
  8. Kirill Zaslavsky, BSc,
  9. Ayan K. Dey, BSc,
  10. Mark J. Eisenberg, MD, MPH,
  11. Ève-Reine Gagné, MD,
  12. Kent T. HayGlass, PhD,
  13. James F. Lewis, MD,
  14. Peter J. Margetts, MD, PhD,
  15. D. Alan Underhill, PhD,
  16. Norman D. Rosenblum, MD,
  17. Lynn A. Raymond, MD, PhD

Author Affiliations

  1. Affiliations: Faculty of Medicine (Skinnider, Squair, Twa, Ji, Raymond), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC; Clinician-Investigator Training Association of Canada(Kuzyk, Wang, Steadman, Zaslavsky, Dey); Faculty of Health Sciences (Kuzyk, HayGlass), University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Man.; Faculty of Medicine (Wang, Steadman, Zaslavsky, Dey, Rosenblum), University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.; Faculty of Medicine (Eisenberg), McGill University, Montréal, Que.; Faculty of Medicine (Gagné), Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Que.; Faculty of Medicine (Lewis), Western University, London, Ont.; Faculty of Medicine (Margetts), McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont.; Faculty of Medicine (Underhill), University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alta.; Canadian Society for Clinical Investigation (Underhill), Ottawa, Ont.
  1. Correspondence to:
    Lynn Raymond, [email protected]


Background: Combined MD/PhD programs provide a structured path for physician-scientist training, but assessment of their success within Canada is limited by a lack of quantitative data. We collected outcomes data for graduates of Canadian MD/PhD programs.

Methods: We developed and implemented a Web-based survey consisting of 41 questions designed to collect outcomes data for Canadian MD/PhD program alumni from 8 Canadian universities who had graduated before September 2015. Respondents were categorized into 2 groups according to whether they had or had not completed all training.

Results: Of the 186 eligible alumni of MD/PhD programs, 139 (74.7%) completed the survey. A total of 136/138 respondents (98.6%) had completed or were currently completing residency training, and 66/80 (82%) had completed at least 1 postgraduate fellowship. Most (58 [83%]) of the 70 respondents who had completed all training were appointed as faculty at academic institutions, and 37 (53%) had been principal investigators on at least 1 recent funded project. Among the 58 respondents appointed at academic institutions, 44/57 (77%) dedicated at least 20% of their time to research, and 25/57 (44%) dedicated at least 50% to research. During their combined degree, 102/136 respondents (75.0%) published 3 or more first-author papers, and 133/136 (97.8%) matched with their first choice of specialty. The median length of physician-scientist training was 13.5 years. Most respondents graduated with debt despite having been supported by Canadian Institutes of Health Research MD/PhD studentships.

Interpretation: Most Canadian MD/PhD program alumni pursued careers consistent with their physician-scientist training, which indicates that these programs are meeting their primary objective. Nevertheless, our findings highlight that a minority of these positions are research intensive; this finding warrants further study. Our data provide a baseline for future monitoring of the output of Canadian MD/PhD programs.

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