1. Is the course load manageable with the medical curriculum?
Students take one additional class at a time throughout the first two years. During your first year, you take a series of classes called Spectrum of Methods in Clinical Research I-III in which you learn how to design clinical trials. This class meets twice a week for one hour. There is minimal homework, and the midterms and finals are open book. During your second year, you take Introduction to Biostatistics and Multivariable Methods. Both of these classes meet once a week for 90 minutes. There are problem sets due every week, but the midterms and finals are also open book. In your first year, you'll spend approximately 3-4 extra hours per week on PORTAL, and in your second year you'll spend 4-5 extra hours per week on PORTAL.
2. Do you have time for extracurriculars?
Yes! PORTAL students are involved in many extracurriculars at Sinai, including the EHHOP clinic, the Community Health Fair, student interest groups, and much more. Because the Master's classes meet no more than 3 hours per week, there is plenty of time to get involved in other activities at Sinai.
3. Do you have time for fun?
Yes! The PORTAL course work is manageable and shouldn't interfere much with students' free time. Classes typically meet in the late afternoons, leaving evenings free to catch up with classmates and explore NYC.
4. What is the course work like?
The clinical research courses include research design, biostatistics, grant writing, elective study, and a mentored clinical research project/thesis. Courses are small, so there is ample opportunity to ask questions and learn from the professors, all of whom are clinical investigators themselves. PORTAL students are in class with graduate students, residents, and fellows interested in pursuing a clinical research career, so the students bring a broad perspective.
5. How is the support for finding research mentors?
There is a lot of support for finding mentors. Students work individually with Dr. Karen Zier, the PORTAL program director, to find researchers for summer projects and the scholarly year. All students who participate in research at Sinai submit evaluations of their mentors and projects, so she has a lot of information available about students' experiences with various researchers. The PORTAL students also meet with Dr. Zier in a group throughout the year to discuss issues such as finding a mentor and selecting a research project.
6. What are the benefits of pursuing a joint MD/MSCR?
The MSCR provides students with formal training in the tools necessary to become a clinical investigator. Students benefit from participating in a research year, knowing in advance that their funding is guaranteed, with some of Sinai's top clinicians and mentors. In addition, the advising support is outstanding throughout students' medical careers.
7. How is this different from the MD/PhD or the MD/MPH program?
There is some overlap among the degrees, but the ultimate aim of each degree is different. Traditionally, MD/PhD programs seek to train physician-investigators who are interested in basic science and want to apply basic science to patient care. The MD/MSCR degree is for students who also want to become physician-investigators, but with a focus on clinical and translational research (research involving humans or human specimens). The MD/MPH focuses more on public health, disease prevention, and community health. For more information, please visit the Graduate School Degree Programs page.
8. How are the monthly meetings structured?
The monthly journal clubs are facilitated by a physician-researcher who picks an article he/she thinks will be interesting and stimulating for the group. At the start of each meeting, the physician does a brief clinical overview of the topic. The rest of the meeting is lead by two students, a first year and a second year, who prepare the article with the faculty member.
9. What is the research stipend?
We maintain parity with the other national medical student research fellowships, so the amount changes every year. For the 2011-2012 year, for example, the stipend is $28,000 in addition to health insurance.
10. How many PORTAL students are there?
There are 4-5 students in each class.
11. How competitive is the PORTAL program?
The program is highly selective, with an admission rate that varies year to year based on student interest. Students who are accepted to PORTAL must meet the requirements for MD admission and have some clinical or translational research experience.
Lianna Lipton, MSSM 2015
Jillian Nickerson, MSSM 2014