M.D. with Distinction in Research

Woman in laboratory
The M.D. with Distinction in Research formally recognizes student achievement of an excellent body of research. The student will be awarded a diplomea conferring the degree "M.D. with Distinction in Research." 


Students must submit a formal application and a CV detailing the students research experiences. Students may apply at any point in their medical school career, but applications must be received and approved by January 31 of the year before the anticipated graduation date. (e.g., by Jan. 31, 2018, for an expected 2019 graduation). This deadline is set to make sure that all parties can review and approve the research for Distinction.


The major requirement of the Distinction involves 24 weeks of full-time research to ensure students have learned the mechanism and process of research. Activities conducted through the summer research programs at UT Southwestern Medical Center fulfill the required research period, as do formal research electives and Scholarly Activity rotations.

Other research activities may fulfill the requirement, but they must be reviewed and approved by the Associate Dean for Medical Student Research the student participates in the research. Approval may be granted depending on a description of the research, the role of the prospective students (including the number of contact hours), and the demonstration that the proposed work has been formally approved by the relevant regulatory committees such as the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC). In cases where the student is planning to conduct research at another institution, the CV of the supervising mentor must be provided.

Research performed under the auspices of a nationally recognized research program (e.g., Sarnoff, Cloisters, HHMI, or Doris Duke Clinical Research programs) during medical school will be eligible for fulfillment of the research requirement.

Some research will not count toward a Distinction in Research. Research performed toward attainment of a master's or Ph.D. degree is not eligible for this program. In addition, time spent conducting research toward fulfillment of the “M.D. with Distinction in Research” may not count toward time requirements of any other distinction program. Research in which the student was paid hourly will not be counted toward the Distinction as this is not full-time research.

Students also will be required to attend at least four of the Research and Medicine Conferences as well as the other M.D. with Distinction presentations.

Capstone Paper

During the application process, the student will assemble a committee of three or more faculty qualified to assess the research being conducted. This committee will be responsible for assuring that the subject matter and scope of the project are adequate.

The student’s progress will be monitored by the mentor and by his/her committee. As the project nears completion, a thesis (capstone paper) will be submitted to the committee describing the objectives, hypothesis, methods, outcome, and implications of the research conducted. The Library’s Electronic Theses and Dissertations Portal has more information. A copy of the thesis will be archived within the library collection and the formal signed paperwork will be kept by the Associate Dean.

The thesis must be signed by all the members of the thesis committee as well as the Associate Dean by April 1 of the graduating year. Our recommendation is that students begin to circulate their thesis by February 1 to make sure that the committee members have time for change feedback if needed.

Capstone Presentation

A formal presentation of the results will be made to an audience that includes the members of the student’s committee. This will show that the student is capable of not only designing the research but communicating its findings succinctly to colleagues. This presentation must be made before March 15 of the graduating semester for inclusion on diploma. Usually the spring Updates in Research & Medicine seminar is used for captstone presentations.


  • January 31 year before graduation: Complete an application for distinction.
  • August 15 year of graduation: Confirm that you are still seeking the distinction and meet with your mentor to confirm that you have planned all the requirements.
  • January 1: Have all course requirements completed for the thesis.
  • February 1: Begin circulating thesis for committee approval and have presentation scheduled.
  • March 15: Deadline for completing the presentation.
  • April 1: Final copy of thesis signed and turned into the Student Affairs office for submission to the Library.

In the event that a student disagrees with the decision of the committee, it is first the obligation of the student to make a good-faith effort to resolve the matter with the faculty member(s) involved. Further appeals should be directed to the Associate Dean, and then to the Dean of the Medical School. The determination of the Dean is final.