FAQs for PORTAL Program

Is the course load manageable with the medical curriculum?

Students take one additional class at a time throughout the first two years. During the first year, students take a series of classes called Spectrum of Measurements in Clinical & Translational Research I-III which focus on 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 the second year, students 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 the first year, students spend approximately 3-4 extra hours per week on PORTAL, and in the second year they typically spend 4-5 extra hours per week on PORTAL.

Do PORTAL students have time for extracurriculars?

Yes! PORTAL students are involved in many extracurriculars at the Icahn School of Medicine, 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.

Do PORTAL students 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.

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 gain a broad perspective.

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, and Dr. Christina Wyatt, Associate Director of the MSRO, to find researcher mentors for summer projects and the scholarly year. All students who participate in research at the School submit evaluations of their mentors and projects, so the MSRO has a lot of information available about students' experiences with various researchers. The PORTAL students also meet with Drs. Zier and Wyatt in a group throughout the year to discuss issues such as finding a mentor and selecting a research project.

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 Mount Sinai's top clinicians and mentors. In addition, the advising support is outstanding throughout students' medical careers.

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.

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 led by two students, a first-year and a second-year, who prepare the article with the faculty member.

What is the research stipend?

We maintain parity with the other national medical student research fellowships, so the amount changes every year. For 2013-2014, the stipend was $28,000, in addition to health insurance.

How many PORTAL students are there?

There are 5 students admitted to each class.

How competitive is the PORTAL program?

The program is highly selective, with an admission rate that varies from year to year based on student interest. Students who are accepted to PORTAL must meet the requirements for MD admission and have clinical or translational research experience.

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