History of MD-PhD Training at Case Western Reserve University

Early Years (1956-1975)

Highly individualized MD-PhD training was a natural outcome of the ‘integrated' medical school curriculum established by Western Reserve University School of Medicine in the mid 1950s under the leadership of Joseph T. Wearn, MD, Professor of Medicine and Dean of the SOM. This novel curriculum encouraged combined MD-PhD training and contained the following features: 1) Basic science and clinical teaching were interfaced and coordinated throughout the 4-year MD program. 2) Lots of ‘elective' and unscheduled time was reserved during the first two years of medical school for students to pursue their own interests. 3) Completion of a research project was a requirement for the MD degree. 4) Basic science and clinical faculty cooperated enthusiastically to make the integrated curriculum a success. Extraordinary leadership from the basic sciences was provided by individuals such as Harland Wood (Biochemistry), Lester Krampitz (Microbiology), Earl Sutherland (Pharmacology), Alan Moritz (Pathology) and others. Clinically, in addition to Joseph Wearn (Medicine), one could point to William Wallace (Pediatrics), Charles Rammelkamp (Medicine), Fredrick Robbins (Pediatrics), William Holden and Simione (Surgery), just to mention a few. These men, not surprisingly, attracted an exceptional group of faculty members, many of whom went on to distinguished academic careers. Jack Caughey, Director of Admissions for the SOM played a crucial role in identifying and supporting qualified candidates interested in combined degree training. The University and Graduate School under the leadership of President John Millis also was very supportive.

In the early years, prospective integrated MD-PhD training was pursued by a small number of students. One or two successful candidates per year elected this option from 1956 through 1967. Five such individuals who began their combined degree programs in the late 1950s were Henry Kingdon (1956), Douglas Kerr and Ferid Murad (1958), Sheldon Taubman and Dudley Watkins (1959). Fifteen candidates started during the next eight years (1960-1967), including Alfred Gilman (1962) and David Satcher (1963). The program attraced outstanding individuals, notably future Nobel laureates Ferid Murad and Alfred Gilman, and David Satcher, who later became head of the CDC and then US Surgeon General.

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