Our Program and People

A Welcome from the Director

Welcome! I am proud to represent our MSTP, which provides an outstanding opportunity for students to obtain combined MD-PhD training and launch careers as physician-scientists.

CWRU has offered MD-PhD training since 1956 for students aspiring to dual careers in academic medicine and biomedical research – this is the oldest MD-PhD program and was one of the early programs to receive a Medical Scientist Training Program NIH training grant (continuously funded for over 40 years). We have two Nobel prize laureates (Alfred Gilman and Ferid Murad) and many other very distinguished scientists among our alumni. Thus, we have a long and successful commitment to training of physician-scientists.

The CWRU MSTP integrates research and clinical training with graduate courses and research rotations integrated with medical school in all semesters of the first two years, and clinical training integrated into the PhD phase.

Our students make substantial discoveries in biomedical science, and publish multiple papers in scientific journals. Upon graduation, they are highly successful in obtaining their choice of residencies, including some of the most prestigious and competitive. Most of our graduates attain faculty positions in clinical or basic science departments at medical schools or equivalent positions at the NIH or research foundations. Others attain research and leadership positions in biotechnology, pharmaceutical or other biomedical companies.

Our MSTP is student-centered and involves significant student input into program planning and development through MSTP Council, our student governing body. The talent and commitment of our students is a major driving force. At the same time, our faculty are enthusiastically involved and include over 130 scientific mentors. Students and faculty work and learn together as colleagues. We pursue research and clinical training seriously, but at the same time we enjoy the journey and treasure the relationships that spring naturally from student-faculty partnership.

I invite you to explore the website and learn more about our program.  

Best Wishes,
Cliff Harding, MD, PhD

Life in the MSTP

Want to know what it's really like to be in our program? Why not ask one of our current students?

Current Students

Our students represent 63 undergraduate universities and are doing research in 18 PhD programs.​​​​​​

Prepared for Medicine

Residencies are an extremely important part of your career, and where you go--and the training that got you there--matters.

Mentoring Is Key

Our students conduct real research with renowned and successful mentors who have labs at CWRU, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Medical Center, and Cleveland MetroHealth Hospital.

Faculty must be approved by the MSTP Steering Committee before they can be added to our mentors list.

Graduates Do It All

Alumni have careers in academia, industry, and government:

  • 72% faculty in medical schools
  • 9% in biotechnology or pharmaceutical research settings
  • 3% at the NIH or other government research institution
  • 3% at medical research institutions
  • 13% in other non-academic settings

MSTP Steering Committee

The MSTP Steering Committee consists of faculty members from basic science as well as clinical departments. The committee meets monthly to oversee program operation, review academic and research performance of MSTP trainees, and evaluate applicants to the program.
Steering Committee members are also mentors and role models for MSTP students, and are always willing to respond to students' needs or questions.  

MSTP students must choose one of the basic science representatives to the Steering Committee to be a member of their PhD thesis committee.

Committee Member Associated PhD Programs

Derek Abbott, MD, PhD (MSTP Co-Director)

Pathology - Cancer Biology and Immunology
Drew Adams, PhD Genetics and Genome Sciences
George Dubyak, PhD Physiology and Biophysics, Pharmacology, Pathology
Dominique Durand, PhD Biomedical Engineering, Neurosciences, Physiology and Biophysics

Agata A Exner, PhD (MSTP Associate Director)

Biomedical Engineering, Pathology - Cancer Biology
Robert Fairchild, PhD Pathology - Immunology

Clifford Harding, MD, PhD (MSTP Director)

Pathology - Immunology, Cell Biology, Pharmacology, Biochemistry
Alex Huang, MD, PhD Pathology - Cancer Biology
Eckhard Jankowsky, PhD Biochemistry
Alan Levine, PhD Molecular Virology, Pathology - Immunology, Pharmacology, Cell Biology
Paul MacDonald, PhD Pharmacology
Arne Rietsch, PhD Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Jerry Silver, PhD Neurosciences
James Spilsbury, PhD Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Clinical Translational Science
Catherine Stein, PhD Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Systems Biology and Bioinformatics, Clinical and Translational Science
Derek Taylor, PhD Pharmacology, Biochemistry
Paul Tesar, PhD Genetics and Genome Sciences, Neurosciences
Debra Leizman, MD Clinical Representative
Christian Essman MD Admissions Representative
Tom McKenzie MD Admissions Representative