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MD-PhD Activities

The Virginia Commonwealth University MD-PhD program provides a number of activities specific to MD-PhD students. These activities provide integration of the two phases of the program and emphasize the unique nature of their group, encouraging an “esprit de corps” and promoting program cohesion.

Required MD-PhD Activities

The activities listed in this section are required for all MD-PhD students in the program.

Fall Retreat

Once a year, all students and Steering Committee faculty come together for the Fall Retreat, often held at the historic Tuckahoe Plantation or the LEED-Platinum-certified VCU Rice Rivers Center overlooking the James River. The retreat includes scientific sessions, food, recreational activities, student-faculty interactions and discussions relevant to students’ careers or to the program. The meeting is organized by the students and is an opportunity to invite outside guests for discussions about the training and life of a physician-scientist, grant writing, conflicts of interest, medical ethics, and program affairs. Guests have included past graduates of the program, scientists at other institutions, NIH program officers, and VCU faculty.

Second Look

In the Spring, students are required to attend the Second Look that is held in early April for accepted MD-PhD students. This event includes a forum for graduate phase students to present a poster of their current research (required for G2+ students), for M4 students to present a poster of their senior research, and is an opportunity for accepted students to ask current students about their experiences at VCU and in Richmond. G1 students can learn about research being conducted in the program and M1-M2 students can get ideas for future rotations and thesis labs. A potluck dinner for all students is typically held at a current MD-PhD student’s house near campus. Additionally, accepted students are also taken on a “Progressive Dinner” tour through Richmond, during which each course is served in a different region of Richmond in order to give them an idea of where current students live in the city.

MD-PhD Lunch Seminar Series

There are two MD-PhD seminars per month that all students must attend. At one monthly seminar, an invited faculty member presents his or her research and talks with students about research careers and, if applicable, the challenges facing physician-scientists. At the other seminar, students present their own research and face the critique of their peers, often having to field unique and probing questions. These seminars introduce (or reintroduce) a variety of research topics to students in their medical phase. Students must register for the seminar course each semester from M1 through the end of the PhD phase, with the exception of a single semester for Step 1 studying and any semester in which graduate coursework conflicts with attendance. M1 or M2 students are expected to give a short presentation at the MD-PhD Lunch Seminar Series during the semester following the completion of their required 6-week summer lab rotation.

Student-led MD-PhD Activities

Our program has a wealth of student initiated and managed activities. Their success is dependent on your active participation and we encourage you to get involved!

These activities include the MD-PhD Student Council, the American Physician-Scientist Association (APSA), and Advocates for MD-PhD Women at VCU.


Provided that they are up-to-date with milestones, students have the opportunity, while in their graduate phase, to attend one of two meetings designed specifically for MD-PhD students:

  • One in Colorado in the summer, held together with the annual meeting of MD-PhD directors
  • One in Chicago, held together with the annual meeting of the American Physician-Scientist Association

At both meetings students from MD-PhD programs throughout the country present research posters and interact, sharing experiences. It is an invaluable opportunity for students to talk about the future, to hear presentations from the nation’s leading physician–scientists and to find out what happens in other programs.