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Medical student on track to be first MD/PhD graduate of Morsani College of Medicine

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Monica Moore, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine MD/PhD student. 

Monica Moore is on track to become the first student to graduate from one of USF Health Morsani College of Medicine’s newest programs – the combined MD/PhD degree program.  

The eight-year program is designed to foster the development of the next generation of physician-scientists and is fully funded by MCOM Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs. 

Moore, who has been nicknamed the “inaugural student” by office staff, began medical school in 2018 and, in 2020, her journey shifted to a four-year detour culminating in earning her PhD in biomedical sciences with a concentration in molecular physiology and pharmacology. 

She will complete her last two years of medical school and aims to graduate in 2026.

Throughout high school, her love for science and inquiry guided her to pursue a career as a scientist.  During her undergraduate years at the University of Florida, her goal was to take her love for microbiology and turn it into a career as a microbiology researcher.  Her ambitions shifted after several “moving” volunteer experiences as she describes. Later, one of her professors asked, “what are you passionate about?”

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The more she thought about it, the more it became clear to her that treating and caring for patients was something she was passionate about, specifically patients suffering from endometriosis. But she didn’t want to abandon her research efforts in the disease.  

Since returning to medical school, she brings a way of thinking and outlook in relation to how patients are diagnosed and treated, something she attributes to her time as a PhD student.  Her PhD coursework also taught her how to “synthesize large amounts of data and think critically,” two of the core skills needed to earn a PhD and succeed as a physician.  

As a result of her passion to understand endometriosis and treat patients who suffer from the disease, her primary research focus as a PhD student was studying the stress-responsive protein FKBP51 and its role in the effects of prenatal stress on the development of the ovary and how this impacts ovarian health throughout the reproductive life course.  She’s also developed an interest in understanding early adverse experiences in life. 

“My goals for what I want to do with an MD/PhD changes every day,” she said with a slight chuckle. “This path has opened me up to new ideas and new interests to the point where I’m not 100% sure where I want to focus my career in medicine yet. For now, my focus is on honing my skills to become a good doctor while applying my new methods of thinking as a PhD student to create more positive patient outcomes.” 

Pursuing an MD/PhD is a big decision.  Where a student decides to pursue it is even bigger.  As Moore was interviewing and visiting medical schools in Florida, she said her visit at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine felt like the right fit.  

“I immediately felt like the administration fostered a student-first, collaborative, and supportive environment throughout my interviews and visit,” she said. “Everyone I had a chance to talk to made me feel like this was the place to grow and pursue my career goals.”

“Monica is a very dedicated individual with a clear goal in mind for her future.  She’s truly considered a moral compass for the other students in the program. She’s incredibly humble and down to earth. I was very impressed with how she carries herself and how she presented her ideas.  I really look forward to working with her more in the future.” Logan Feinberg, program director of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine MD/PhD program. 

MD/PhD Structure:

Years 1-2:  Students complete the first two years of medical school and participate in lab rotations during the summer semesters.  Additionally, students are invited to participate in a variety of seminars and student events through the PhD program. Students are required to complete USMLE Step 1 at the end of their second year. 

Years 3-6:  Students identify a primary research lab and enroll in coursework relevant to their research concentration.  They work with their mentor to prepare for and complete the Comprehensive Qualifying Examination, then begin their dissertation research. 

Years 7-8:  After successfully completing their PhD dissertation defense, students complete their final two years of medical school. 

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About Health News

USF Health News highlights the great work of the faculty, staff and students across the four health colleges – Morsani College of Medicine, College of Public Health, College of Nursing and Taneja College of Pharmacy – and the multispecialty physicians group. USF Health, an integral part of the University of South Florida, integrates research, education and health care to reach our shared value - making life better.