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Meharry students selected for the joint program will earn an M.D. from Meharry and a Ph.D. from Wharton. (Meharry Medical College photo CC BY-NC 2.0)

Credit: Kylie Cooper

The Wharton School's Health Care Management department launched a joint M.D. and Ph.D. program with Meharry Medical College, a historically Black medical college in Nashville, Tenn.

After working together in the past to provide summer research and mentorship programs to underrepresented students, the two schools will begin the joint venture in fall 2021, and will select one student for the program each year. Meharry students selected for the program will earn a medical degree from Meharry and a Ph.D. from Wharton. 

Participants will begin as medical students at Meharry and then take a leave of absence after a few years of course work to complete their Ph.D. at Penn. They will then return to Meharry to finish their M.D., A. Dexter Samuels, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs and Executive Director at the Center for Health Policy at Meharry, wrote in an emailed statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian. 

The program, which is currently accepting applications, will only admit one student each year, as Wharton’s HCM doctoral department only accepts a total of three students annually, Program Director Guy David said. 

The new partnership between Wharton HCM and Meharry is a “logical next step” in the relationship between the two schools, David said.

Since 2012, Meharry has been involved with Wharton’s Leonard David Institute of Health Economics Summer Undergraduates Minority Research Program, which provides summer research and mentorship programs to undergraduate students from underrepresented communities. 

Joanne Levy, the founding director of SUMR, said the process of receiving an M.D. and a Ph.D. is a difficult task, and that the joint program will hopefully help simplify the process for students. She added that she hopes the program will identify strong medical students who are interested in policy and research, in order to prepare them to enter and diversify the fields of health economics.

“All too often, minority populations are not advised to pursue an M.D. or Ph.D. degree,” Samuels said. "Hence, the importance of this program." 

There are over 80 M.D./Ph.D. programs across the nation, including one between the Perelman School of Medicine and the Penn Medical Scientist Training Program. Of the 1,813 applicants who applied for a joint M.D./Ph.D. program in the United States in 2019, 767 applicants were white, 367 were Asian, 124 were Black, and 80 were Hispanic, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The medical field is similarly dominated by white individuals — in 2018, 56.2% of active physicians and surgeons were white, while 17.1% were Asian, 5.8% were Hispanic and 5% were Black. 

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