Mount Sinai Offers Combined Psychiatric Residency and PhD Track

The Department of Psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai will offer a new path for residents seeking dual MD/PhD training beginning in 2014. Funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH)—under the R25 mechanism—the Psychiatry Residency + PhD Program integrates post-doctorate training in genetics or neuroscience with psychiatry residency training over a period of seven years.

“There is an urgent need in psychiatry to conduct translational research that will help us understand the neurological systems that underlie psychiatric disorders and translate findings in basic science into clinical trials,” says Ronald O. Rieder, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Director of the Psychiatry Residency Program and Vice Chair for Education in the Department of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai. “This unique opportunity will prepare residents for a career in translational medicine by allowing them to conduct sophisticated academic work while training in clinical care.”

New models for training translational researchers are greatly needed in psychiatry. The current method of training MD/PhD candidates includes years of intense research, which is then followed by several years of clinical training. However, this causes students to experience a long separation from their research training, which often leads to a decline in basic science skills and a need to retrain after residency. As a result, many MD/PhDs are choosing not to pursue research after they finish their residency training.

Mount Sinai’s innovative new program solves this problem by offering training that simultaneously promotes clinical and research abilities by integrating clinical training with PhD training, and PhD research that is designed to continue through post-residency research. Two medical students will be accepted into the program each year through the National Residency Matching Plan. The Psychiatry Residency + PhD Program also offers substantial financial incentives through the NIH’s Loan Repayment Program.

“It is essential that we train more translational researchers,” says Wayne K. Goodman, MD, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Esther and Joseph Klingenstein Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai. “As our understanding of basic science in the fields of neuroscience and genetics advance, PhD training may become a necessity to conduct translational research and obtain research funding. By developing a more sophisticated and organized program, medical students will be more likely to consider a dual MD/PhD track.”

The first year of the Psychiatry Residency + PhD Program is a full residency year devoted to meeting requirements in primary care, neurology, and inpatient psychiatry. The remaining six years are split evenly, with 50 percent residency time and 50 percent NIMH-supported research time. During years two, three, and four, the NIMH time will be used for PhD training and research. In years five, six, and seven, the NIMH time is used solely for research. Residents will also receive instruction in scientific writing and attend grant proposal writing workshops to help prepare publications, their thesis, and post-residency research funding.