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Williams to lead physician-scientist training program 

May. 19, 2016, 10:01 AM

Christopher Williams, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology, was recently named associate dean for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s Physician-Scientist Education and Training Program (PSTP) and director of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP).

Christopher Williams, M.D., Ph.D.
Christopher Williams, M.D., Ph.D.

Williams succeeds Terence Dermody, M.D., MSTP director since 2003, who is leaving Vanderbilt to become chair of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Under Dermody’s leadership, the program grew from 65 to its current enrollment of 101.

The Vanderbilt MSTP trains students for faculty and research posts in the biomedical sciences. Successful completion of the program enables them to earn both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees.

Vanderbilt established the M.D./Ph.D. program in 1964. The dual enrollment program is one of 45 MSTP programs in the country funded by the National Institutes of Health. Each year about 14 new students are admitted to the program.

“We have one of the top programs in the country,” said Williams. “We have outstanding students, who clearly are what makes this program great. Because of this, year after year, we consistently recruit the very best students. I envision continued growth in the program and I am looking forward to working with our students and a terrific leadership team in developing new and innovative programming.”

“We are delighted that Chris will be the next MSTP director,” said Bonnie Miller, M.D., associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs and senior associate dean for Health Services. “He has become a successful and sought-after mentor for students and fellows in his lab.

“He will bring his passion and creativity to the position and will serve as an exemplary role model for our future physician-scientists.”

Williams is looking forward to a more enhanced role in training students both at the pre- and post-doctoral levels. He currently serves as the director of the Harrison Society, the Department of Medicine’s PSTP program, and hopes to promote an environment for networking, career guidance and navigation between the two training cohorts.

“There is a great benefit in fostering interactions between these two groups of trainees, as one naturally feeds into the other,” said Williams, a graduate of both programs. “We will develop strategies to allow MSTP students to benefit from the experiences of scholars in the Harrison Society as they decide on career and residency paths.

“Physician-scientists are lifelong learners in clinical and research endeavors, but also lifelong mentors as well,” he said.

In his role as associate dean, Williams will assist in developing and coordinating the activities of PSTP programs in other medical school departments.

The Vanderbilt PSTP, founded in 1999, promotes discovery of biomedical knowledge and translation to patient care through the training and development of physician-scientists. The PSTP is modeled after the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Research Pathway to facilitate combined clinical and research training.

“Vanderbilt provides an outstanding environment for receiving exceptionally high quality clinical and research training,” said Williams. “There are a limited number of medicine residencies with PTSP programs. At least two-thirds of our trainees have gone through an MTSP program, which is remarkable.”

Currently, the Harrison Society has 31 residents/fellows enrolled. A total of 70 participants have gone through the program since its inception.

Williams graduated from Brigham Young University in 1992. In 2000 he received his Ph.D., followed by his medical degree in 2002, both from Vanderbilt. He joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2007.

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