The UCSF MD with Distinction Program


UCSF Medical Students who intend to complete more intensive coursework and/or a project of the highest rigor can apply to the MD with Distinction program in their Pathway (MDwD). Yearlong UCSF-funded learners and learners in the Molecular Medicine Pathway must complete the MDwD.

General Requirements

The M.D. with Distinction will be awarded to graduating UCSF medical students if, in addition to fulfilling all of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Medicine, the students also complete:

  • One of the five Pathways to Discovery (PTD), including both the general requirements for MDwD and the Pathway-specific requirements
  • A research or other original, rigorous, and innovative project
  • A written or otherwise enduring product
    • approved by the governing committee of the MD with Distinction program within their selected Pathway, and
    • of broader scope or more advanced coursework than students in the PTD core program

Requirements by Pathway

For requirements, deadlines, and application processes, consult the specific Pathway MDwD Program


MDwD Committees

Each student enrolled in the MDwD program will have an MDwD Committee charged with overseeing the student's effort and providing help and guidance both during the research or project and during the writing of the legacy product.

  • Once accepted into the MDwD program, students and their project mentor must select an MDwD Committee that includes at least one other faculty member in addition to the project mentor with expertise related to the proposed research or project.
  • The ideal committee will have three faculty members approved by both the project mentor and the pathway director. In MMP, the committee includes one of that Pathway's directors.
  • Students must formally present their work to their committee at least twice after their entry into the program. The timing of these presentations varies by Pathway, and students are responsible for knowing and fulfilling the requirements of their Pathway. MDwD Committees may request additional presentations as needed. Students are encouraged to contact members of their committee informally as well.


The research or project work may be carried out in any field appropriate to medicine as long as it aims to advance science, health, or health care in some meaningful way.

Projects may be performed at any academic institution or other site approved by the Pathway director and MDwD Committee. When members of an MDwD Committee are from other sites, they must possess academic credentials comparable to those of UCSF faculty members who would be appointed to that committee.

The M.D. with Distinction will not be awarded for scholarly work done prior to medical school or for work credited toward any other degree.


The Pathways Certificate Program

The UCSF Pathways Certificate Program (PCP - formerly known as CPBR) is an registration option for UCSF students undertaking yearlong research designed to facilitate opportunities for medical students to pursue full-time research for one or more years beyond the standard four year curriculum. It is not an additional monetary award but a way to access UCSF facilities and maintain insurance while paying reduced fees. 

UCSF-funded yearlong research learners must complete PCP, except in rare cases when they may substitute another approved registration option. These learners will be oriented re: PCP and registered by the funding program which will defray a portion of the PCP fees.

More information about eligibility, requirements, timelines and enrollment is available at the PCP site.

Next Steps

Interested students should:

  1. Confirm they are in good academic standing and have approval from the Associate Dean of Curriculum to participate in both PTD and MDwD;
  2. Contact the director of the Pathway - or Pathways, if the work crosses disciplines - relevant to their proposed area of study, and, where appropriate, the director of the Office of Student Research (Note: choice of one Pathway must be made prior to project proposal submission); and
  3. Declare their intent to pursue the MDwD and one of the five Pathways on their RAPtr or PTD proposal application (see Enroll). Students applying through RAPtr do not need to submit a separate PTD application.

If you have questions about the application/proposal submission process, contact Matt Trojnar.