The need for a program that trained clinician scientists was recognized in the 1980s when students in the University of Toronto (U of T) medical school expressed interest in earning a PhD during their education.
The infrastructure and funding for training clinician scientists had existed in the United States since 1968, via the successful Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). It was decided that similar MD/PhD training grounds should be established in Canada to offer students extensive exposure to research and medicine.
Led by Dr. Mel Silverman as the founding director and Sandy McGugan as the administrative director, our MD/PhD program first began in 1984. The first of its kind in Canada, initial skepticism about the viability of the program was quickly overcome. The ability of the students to come back to medical school while maintaining research interests proved that the program could be successful. Based on the success of the Toronto model, other universities across Canada later created MD/PhD programs of their own.
Starting from two to three students a year, the program gradually increased its enrolment to 10 per year as more funding became available. Now with an enrolment of 56 students, we are the largest MD/PhD Program in Canada.
MD/PhD students from U of T continue to distinguish themselves as graduate students and as clinical clerks in the medical school. Our graduates are found in many different medical and surgical specialties, and the majority mature into clinician scientists who occupy academic medical positions at universities nationally and internationally. The MD/PhD Program continues to expand while providing unparalleled financial, career and academic support for our students.