University of California San Diego
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University of California, San Diego

Social Science/Humanities PhD Field Supported:

No official program, but open to nontraditional MSTP applicants. PhDs in Health Care Economics, Psychological/Psychiatric Anthropology, and Public Health all accepted since 1990.

Description of Program:

UCSD's MSTP considers applications from students interested in pursuing PhDs in nontraditional fields. In addition to the MeSSH fields mentioned above, several students have completed PhDs in bioengineering. Historically strong programs at UCSD that might also be considered include Cognitive Science, Sociology, and Science & Technology Studies. Interested students should contact Paul Insel, MD, director of the MSTP, and the admissions committees of the relevant graduate departments.

Structure of Program:

UCSD's program is a Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). Typically medical anthropology MD/PhD students complete their first two years of medical school. (UCSD has historically discouraged students from starting clinical clerkships before completing their graduate program, although this is periodically revisited.) MSTP students then begin their PhD program; previous medical social sciences and humanities students have not usually been able to place out of core courses, though this may vary depending on circumstances. Applicants should consult the websites of the relevant departments for course and research requirements, as well as typical time to completion. Recent graduates in medical social sciences and humanities fields have taken between 5 and 7 years to complete the PhD. A preceptorship program open to students in their final year of the PhD program allows students to brush up on clinical material before starting third year clerkships. Note that students are only allowed to return to the wards to begin their third year of medical school (clinical clerkships) between May and August (that is, at the start of the summer quarter, middle of summer quarter, or start of fall quarter).

Size of incoming joint MD/PhD class:

8-10 per year

Number of students in the social sciences or humanities:

typically 1 every several years

Number of graduates from the SSH joint MD/PhD program:


Current number of students in the Social Sciences and Humanities:


Application Process:

1.  The application process involves:Complete application with the required transcripts and MCAT scores to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) indicating you are applying to the UCSD School of Medicine and The Medical Scientist Training Program.MSTP application materials will be sent only to applicants who pass the initial screening and are invited to submit a secondary application to the Medical School.

    • MSTP application materials will be sent only to applicants who pass the initial screening and are invited to submit a secondary application to the Medical School.
    • If you apply to the MSTP, you will be asked to submit a brief supplemental essay describing your past research experiences, your interests, and your future career goals.

    • You will also need to submit confidential letters of reference on your behalf directly to the Medical School Admissions office. The MSTP is especially interested in hearing from your past research advisors and others who can comment on your aptitude for research. Do not send any letters of recommendation to the MSTP office.

2.  Your secondary application will be reviewed by the MSTP. If chosen for an MSTP interview, you will be invited to visit San Diego for a one and one-half day interview and orientation; a separate interview with the School of Medicine is not necessary Our MSTP interview process includes individual meetings with a faculty from the program in Medical Anthropology as well as with a member of the MSTP Admissions Committee. You will also meet with our Program Administrator and with current MSTP students.


MSTP trainees receive the NIH MSTP training grant ($29,000/year) during all four years of medical school. MSTP students in laboratory sciences are typically funded for their first year of graduate work, after which they are expected to obtain outside funding or be supported by their PI. Students in SSH fields may negotiate with the MSTP to take their year of graduate funding at a later point; it may be more advantageous to obtain funding through their departments in the form of TAships or other support, as departmental funding is often only available during the first two years of graduate work; SSH grad students at UCSD sometimes support themselves during their third year by TAing in the undergraduate Writing Programs. SSH students should consider applying for outside funding appropriate to their field as soon as possible.

YearAmount of StipendSourceTuition Covered?  Guaranteed?

Individual Graduate Program level  

NIH or Department/Fellowship*  YesYes/No*
Grad2?Department or FellowshipusuallyNo
Grad3?Department or FellowshipusuallyNo
Grad4?Department or FellowshipusuallyNo
Grad5+  *NIH or Department/Fellowship*- (depends)Yes/No*

* 1 year of graduate tuition is guaranteed; in some cases the program has been able to provide a second year of graduate funding but this is not guaranteed. Students can negotiate to take this at a time other than first year of graduate study if that is more advantageous.

Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to check with both the MSTP and their graduate program(s) of interest regarding current funding availability, as this changes frequently.

Contact information:

Mary Alice Kiisel, Program Coordinator
MSTP, Mail Code 0606
UCSD School of Medicine
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0606
Phone: 800-925-8704 or 858-534-0689