New Bolton Center Kennett Square, PA
Emergencies & Appointments:
Ryan Hospital Philadelphia, PA

How the Program Works

Our Goals

The mission of the Penn Vet VMD-PhD program is to train outstanding clinician-scientists who will make valuable contributions to the advancement of science and medicine through research, clinical activities, and teaching. The complex problems presented by animal and human medicine today are ideally approached by investigators with broad experience in numerous species. Biomedical research often requires studies on multiple species, each with distinct properties. Individuals with comparative medicine training, coupled with rigorous research experience, are particularly well equipped to identify unique features of various animal models for human disease, and to press forward frontiers in human and animal health. Penn Vet provides an outstanding environment for the training of future leaders. We accomplish our mission by selecting outstanding individuals for acceptance into our programs, who then acquire the education and skills needed to become successful clinician-scientists. Throughout this training period, students are provided with career counseling and advice needed to progress successfully to the next level of their training.

How the Program Works

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 seven Biomedical Graduate Groups, though PhD students are possible in other graduate groups, including Bioengineering. Students typically begin with the core basic science veterinary curriculum in the first two years, and perform laboratory rotations in the summers.

This provides a solid foundation in medically-relevant biomedical science and enables them to identify their thesis laboratory. During the third 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 more than 600 thesis laboratories to choose from.

After completing their graduate qualifying exam, students then perform full time thesis research until their project is completed. This generally takes about three 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 seven campus-wide Biomedical Graduate Groups are listed below. Numbers of faculty in each group are listed in parentheses.  Other graduate groups are possible.

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics (103 faculty)
  • Cell and Molecular Biology (435 faculty)
  • Epidemiology and Biostatistics (109 faculty)
  • Genomics and Computational Biology (87 faculty)
  • Immunology (130 faculty)
  • Neuroscience (205 faculty)
  • Pharmacology (145 faculty)
  • Bioengineering (197 faculty) 

Learn more about the Biomedical Graduate Groups at Penn...

Sample Curriculum

  • Year 1: Full time Vet School curriculum; 1-2 Graduate courses, Laboratory Rotation
  • Year 2: Full time Vet School curriculum; 1-2 Graduate courses, Laboratory Rotation
  • Year 3: Full time Graduate courses, Laboratory Rotation, Candidacy Exam
  • Year 4 and beyond: Thesis Research, Clinical Connections
  • Final Year: Clinical Core, Clinical Rotations, Graduation

The average time required for completion of the program is usually eight 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.

Financial Support

All students admitted into the program receive financial support. Financial support is provided through either the Medical Scientist Training Program grant funded by the National Institutes of Health, or through other Training Grants and institutional resources. Students admitted into the program are provided with Veterinary School and Graduate School tuition and fees, student health insurance, and a graduate level stipend. Support is provided for the entire length of the program, as long as a student remains in good standing.