Physician-Scientist Doctoral Program

A Ph.D. program for residents or fellows completing clinical training and wish to take advantage of the rich research environment at Vanderbilt

This program enables qualified physicians to obtain Ph.D. degrees through existing degree-granting departments. 

The program is directed by Dr. Roy Zent, Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Medicine, and a steering committee comprised of members of the Department of Medicine, representatives of other clinical departments, and the Directors of Graduate Studies (DGS) of the participating degree-granting departments. This committee oversees the application and admissions process, administers the program, and monitors the progress of program participants. The committee interacts with the degree-granting departments to define expectations and requirements for students obtaining their Ph.D. degrees. 

Process for applying and obtaining a degree 

Applicants typically enter the program after they have finished their continuous clinical training. Potential students should contact Dr. Zent six months before this date to discuss their research interests and potential mentors. Dr. Zent will present the applicant to the steering committee, which will decide on the suitability of the applicant for the program.

Candidates must demonstrate that they are committed to a career in science. Candidates will then apply directly to the degree-granting department and choose a mentor in consultation with the steering committee prior to starting the program.  Mentors must hold primary or secondary appointments in the degree-granting department. Once a candidate has been admitted to the program, Dr. Zent will meet with the DGS and the candidate to decide on the course work required of the student.

Students will complete the majority of the course work in their first two years  and prepare to take the qualifying exam by the end of their second year. The members of a thesis committee will be chosen by the student with the approval of the DGS. We anticipate that most candidates will complete the Ph.D. within four years. 

Requirements to complete the program 

Seventy-two credit hours are required for a Ph.D., and 48 of these are usually allotted for coursework completed during medical school training. Thus, a student will typically require 24 hours of additional coursework to obtain his or her degree. Taking the courses required by the degree-granting department will typically meet the 24 hours of coursework. The cost of tuition will be the responsibility of the division, department, or the student, but will typically be paid through training grants or other educational funds. In addition to fulfilling the course requirements, the student must complete a thesis that meets the requirements of the department. 


Roy Zent, MD, PhD

Vice Chair for Researh, Department of Medicine


     Program Leadership

Roy Zent, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine
Director, Physician Scientist Doctoral Program