M.D. with Distinction in Research

Student working in a research lab
A student works in a research lab.

The M.D. with Distinction in Research recognizes students who distinguish themselves by conducting meaningful clinical or basic research activities during the course of their Medical School training. Individuals satisfying the program requirements will be recognized at graduation and on their diploma as graduating with the degree of Doctor of Medicine, with Distinction in Research.


1. Applications

Students must submit a formal application at any point in their medical school career, but applications for candidacy must be received and approved by Jan. 31 of the year prior to the anticipated graduation date (e.g., by Jan. 31, 2019, for an expected 2020 graduation). This deadline is set to make sure all parties are able to review and approve the research for Distinction.

2. Activities in Research

The major requirement of the M.D. with Distinction in Research involves 24 weeks of full-time research to ensure students have learned the mechanism and process of research. Research activity should occur during a period in which the student has no other scholastic requirements. Activities conducted through the summer research programs and Scholarly Activity at UT Southwestern Medical Center fulfill the required research period, as do formal research electives. Other research activities may fulfill the requirement, but they must be reviewed and approved by the Associate Dean for Medical Student Research before the student participates in the research.

Research may be conducted at UT Southwestern or at other institutions, subject to pre-approval of the Associate Dean. 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, 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 will also be required to attend at least four of the Research and Medicine Conferences as well as the other M.D. with Distinction presentations.

3. Capstone Paper

During the application process, the student will assemble a committee of two 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 Development Process 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. We recommend that students begin to circulate their thesis by Feb. 1 to make sure that the committee members have time for change feedback if needed.

4. 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 designing the research as well as succinctly communicating its findings to colleagues. This presentation must be completed before March 15 of the graduating semester for inclusion on the diploma.

Distinction Process

A general timeline looks like:

  • Jan. 31 year before graduation: Complete an application for distinction.
  • Aug. 15 of graduation year: Confirm that you are still seeking the Distinction and meet with your mentor to confirm that you have planned all the requirements.
  • Jan. 1: Have all courses completed or registered for to complete Distinction requirements.
  • Feb. 1: Send primary mentor thesis for approval and have presentation scheduled.
  • March 1: Send all committee members the approved version of your thesis.
  • March 15 of graduation year: Deadline to complete the manuscript, present thesis, and submit to peer-reviewed manual.