First MD Fellow Enters New PhD Track

Speedy translation of cutting-edge scientific discoveries into effective models of patient care is crucial for medical progress and a key objective at Cleveland Clinic. Physician-scientists, currently few and far between, are uniquely poised to catalyze this translation from bedside to bench and back again.

Andrew Smith, MD, a clinical resident in Cleveland Clinic's Department of Vascular Surgery, is the first physician trainee to gain admission to the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) Molecular Medicine PhD program by way of the new Physician Researchers Innovating in Science and Medicine (PRISM) track. He is but the first of the best and brightest clinical trainees to enter this program.

Developed in response to the growing need for on-ramps for MDs into research training, PRISM is a new pathway for clinical residents and fellows to obtain a PhD in the Molecular Medicine program.

While PRISM trainees will ultimately graduate with the same degree as other Molecular Medicine PhD students, their paths will be a little different. The MD resident must first be nominated by their clinical department or institute before they can identify a thesis research lab and apply to the program. Additionally, they can waive up to 18 credit hours based on their MD transcript, which can shorten the time from program beginning to completion.

PRISM trainees are required to complete a minimum of 18 credit hours of coursework taught at LRI and CWRU, as well as 18 credit hours of thesis-related research that results in at least one first author publication. The qualifying exam and thesis committee process will be identical to that of other Molecular Medicine PhD students.

During the program, the trainee's clinical department or institute will continue to pay his or her salary and benefits, while his or her thesis mentor will cover the cost of tuition and research work.

Set to begin the program this fall, Dr. Smith—who earned his medical degree at Stony Brook University—will complete his thesis research in the lab of Linda Graham, MD, vascular surgeon at Cleveland Clinic and staff within the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the Lerner Research Institute. "I am grateful for this opportunity and excited to earn my PhD through the lens of a physician, as well as to add my clinical perspective to the research process," he said.

Contact Christine Moravec, PhD, chair of the admissions committee for the Molecular Medicine PhD program and director of the Lerner Research Institute Research Education and Training Center; Jonathan Smith, PhD, director and professor of the Molecular Medicine PhD program; or Sarah Kostiha-Smith, program manager of the Molecular Medicine PhD program, with questions about the PRISM program.