Purpose: MD–PhD scientists are a successful, but small and fairly homogenous group of biomedical researchers. The authors conducted a retrospective cohort study to identify predictors of MD–PhD program enrollment to inform evidence-based strategies to increase the size and diversity of the biomedical research workforce.
Method: Using deidentified data from all 2001–2006 Pre-Medical College Admission Test Questionnaire (PMQ) respondents, they developed multivariate logistic regression models to identify demographic, experiential, and attitudinal variables associated with MD–PhD program enrollment at matriculation compared with all other MD program enrollment at matriculation and with not enrolling in medical school by August 2012.
Results: Of 207,436 PMQ respondents with complete data for all variables of interest, 2,575 (1.2%) were MD–PhD program enrollees, 80,856 (39.0%) were other MD program enrollees, and 124,005 (59.8%) were non-medical-school matriculants. Respondents who were black (versus white), were high school and college laboratory research apprenticeship participants, and highly endorsed the importance of research/finding cures as reasons to study medicine were more likely to be MD–PhD program enrollees, whereas respondents who highly endorsed the status of medicine as a reason to study medicine were less likely to be MD–PhD program enrollees than either other MD program enrollees or non-medical-school matriculants.
Conclusions: MD–PhD program directors succeed in enrolling students whose attitudes and interests align with MD–PhD program goals. Continued efforts are needed to promote MD–PhD workforce diversity and the value of high school and college research apprenticeships for students considering careers as physician–scientists.