How Does the Program Work?
VMD and PhD studies are interwoven throughout the program. Students perform their veterinary training at the School of Veterinary Medicine, and their PhD training usually in one of the 9 Biomedical Graduate Groups. Students typically begin with the core basic science veterinary curriculum in the first 2.5 years. This provides a solid foundation in medically-relevant biomedical science. Over the next year, students generally complete their PhD coursework in the Graduate Group of their choice (see below). Students are able to join any graduate group within the University giving them them over 500 thesis laboratories to choose from. During the first 2-3 years, students perform laboratory rotations with faculty in their graduate group to identify the laboratory and thesis mentor for their PhD thesis research. Students then perform full time thesis research until their project is completed. This generally takes about 3 years. A clinical connections program is in place to enable students to maintain their clinical skills during thesis research years. The program concludes with veterinary clinical requirements and students receive VMD and PhD degrees concurrently.
The 9 campus-wide Biomedical Graduate Groups are listed below. Numbers of faculty in each group are listed in parentheses.
For more information on the Biomedical Graduate Groups at Penn, see
- Year 1: Full time Vet School curriculum, 1-2 graduate courses, first laboratory rotation
- Year 2: Full time Vet School curriculum, 1-2 graduate courses, second laboratory rotation
- Year 3: Complete Vet Core courses, Complete Graduate courses, Preliminary Examination, Third Laboratory Rotation
- Year 4 and beyond: Thesis research, Clinical connections program, Retreats, Seminars
- Final Year: Defend PhD thesis, Clinical Rotations, Graduate
The average time required for completion of the program is usually 8 years. The largest variable is the time needed to complete the PhD thesis research phase of the program. While we are committed to providing students with training that is completed in as short of a period as possible, we do not believe that an abbreviated PhD thesis training period best prepares our students for the future. We therefore, provide extensive oversight and advising that enables students to complete the program as efficiently as possible, while at the same time maintaining excellence in their PhD thesis research.