Rhodes alums Ashley Truong ’16 and Pryce Michener ’17 have been offered Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) awards, which provide highly qualified individuals opportunities to pursue a combined M.D.-Ph.D. degree in order to care for patients and to conduct research. MSTPs are funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.
In June, Truong will enter the MSTP at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “MSTPs are incredibly competitive because they allow trainees to fast-track the dual-degrees while also covering tuition and providing a living stipend throughout the seven to eight years needed to complete the program,” she says. “In addition to relieving the burden of debt during such a lengthy and challenging career path, these programs provide the opportunity to train with amazing scientists and physician-scientists during the graduate school years. UT Southwestern is an amazing institution to be trained in the basic sciences, and I can’t wait to take advantage of the depth and quality of research there.”
Truong holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. She was a St. Jude Summer Plus Fellow while a student, and when the fellowship ended, she continued to work as a research technologist at the hospital. “Without the Summer Plus program, I don’t know if I would have been confident enough to apply to MSTPs,” adds Truong. “I strongly encourage Rhodes students interested in M.D.-Ph.D. programs to apply to and take advantage of the St. Jude Summer Plus Fellowship.”
Other Rhodes alumni who have participated in MSTPs include Michael Burke ’05, accepted in 2007 at Stony Brook University; Sinifunanya Nwaobi ’07, accepted in 2007 at University of Alabama at Birmingham; Alex Tong ’11, accepted in 2011 at Case Western Reserve University; Emily Woods ’12, accepted in 2012 at Emory University; Grace Mosley ’14, accepted in 2014 at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Matthew Roberts ’14, accepted in 2016 at Medical University of South Carolina; and Emily Hayward ’16, accepted in 2016 at University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“We are so proud of these students and pleased that Rhodes has an outstanding record of student success with these highly coveted MSTP awards. There are only about 171 awarded nationally each year,” says Dr. Alan Jaslow, executive director of Health Profession Advising (HPA) at Rhodes. “These students have to prepare to be top medical school applicants as well as top Ph.D. applicants. Our students do this through our excellent academic program, our many clinical internships, and opportunities in Memphis, as well as research with Rhodes professors or community partners such as St. Jude.”
Michener, like Truong, has been offered an MSTP award to begin this year, and he is in the process of making a final decision about which MSTP institution he’ll attend. “I’m hoping to get a Ph.D. in public health and work on health disparities,” he says. “At the moment, I’m working at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany, doing a project on the evolution of stickleback fish immune systems.”
Michener holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and German from Rhodes. He added that participating in an MSTP also will help him decide if he wants to practice medicine.
MSTP participants may choose from a wide range of research training programs in the biological, chemical, or physical sciences. Other disciplines in which MSTP participants can pursue graduate study include the computer sciences, social and behavioral sciences, economics, epidemiology, public health, bioengineering, biostatistics, and bioethics.