History of the Program and Alumni Testimonials

History of the Program

Until 1993, none of the summer programs run by medical colleges or graduate schools had the specific aim of training students to become successful MD-PhD applicants and students.

In 1993, the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program of Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan Kettering became the first MD-PhD Program in the country to establish a summer program for underrepresented minority and disadvantaged college students who wish to pursue the combined MD-PhD degree.

As of 2021, 346 undergraduates have “graduated” from the program. Of the 318 who have completed their undergraduate degree, 244 (76.7%) have earned or are pursuing advanced degrees: 190 have earned advanced degrees (including 111 MD/DOs, 21 PhD/PharmDs and 29 MD-PhDs) and 54 are pursuing advanced degrees (including 13 MD/DO students, 10 PhD students and 31 MD-PhD students). The program’s accomplishments are impressive considering that the participants are identified after their freshman or sophomore year of college. Of the 60 who have received or are pursuing MD-PhDs, 13 have graduated from, and 10 are enrolled in, the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program; indeed, we have created our own pipeline. Comparing the outcomes for those who completed health-related programs to those still in training reveals a shift from MD-only toward MD-PhD and PhD-only programs, the reasons for which are discussed in Gotian et al. (2017).

Due to the fact that Gateways enrolls freshmen and sophomores, coupled with the propensity of early program participants to pursue MD-only training, it will take many years to determine the full impact of the program with respect to the its “success” in training clinician-scientists. At this point, among the 29 MD-PhD graduates, 17 are still in training (residents or fellows); of the 12 who are out of training, six are in academic medicine, four are in private practice, and two are in biotech/pharma.

To this day, the Tri-Institutional Gateways to the Laboratory Program is the only such program exclusively for freshmen and sophomores (rising sophomores and rising juniors).

Alumni Testimonials

Alumni of the Gateways to the Laboratory Program are accepted and matriculate annually to the most prestigious MD-PhD Programs in the country, including our own. As of the fall of 2021, 13 Gateways alumni have graduated from the Tri-I MD-PhD Program, and another 10 are currently enrolled. We look forward to seeing these numbers increase in the coming years as more students graduate from Gateways and the MD-PhD Program!

Read testimonials regarding their time in Gateways below.

Here is a video created by some of the 2019 Gateways students about their experience in the program:

Arnaldo Mercado-Perez

Gateways 2015
MD-PhD student, Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine

“...the most important aspect for me was the opportunity it gives us students to visualize ourselves as physician-scientists. One skill they seem to use to the max is good and smart time management; a good example of that was coordinating the shadowing experience, for we had to make sure that we were still running experiments in the lab, and that our absence by the lab bench did not set back our research project. To me, this helped bring the life of a physicianscientist into perspective, particularly if one chose to become a researcher and practitioner.”

Michael Pineda

Gateways 2015
MD-PhD student at Harvard/MIT MD-PhD Program

“Gateways has continued to enable my professional and personal development. I am still working with my mentor Dr. Christopher Mason, and our colleagues, on two manuscripts on my work of metagenomic sequencing of Southern American waterways (such as the Amazon River). I also have pursued an opportunity to join the Extreme Microbiome Project with Dr. Mason, and I am in the processing of submitting two grants to National Geographic and Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, to allow me to travel, sample, and sequence sites of interest around the world. With the fantastic support system give to me through Gateways, I have been able to do this while pursuing my research interest in CRISPR technology at ASU, and this summer at MIT, and I also have been given opportunities to shadow previous Tri-I alumni at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. As I continue my interest in pursuing the MD-PhD, I could not have asked for better preparation and support than what was given to me during Gateways.”

Folasade Sofela

Gateways 2013
MD-PhD student, University of Pennsylvania

“I entered the Gateways class of 2013 with a strong interest in pursuing the MD/PhD, but no real idea of the type and amount of work it would take to achieve this goal. Gateways provided me with an abundance of information about the dual degree, from what it would take to get in (MCATs, personal statements, research future experiences) to what it would look like at the end (future career paths and lots of shadowing opportunities), while providing me with an extensive network of people to reach out to for advice at any stage in my career. I'm currently finishing up my last year in my undergraduate studies at Harvard College, and will be matriculating into an MD/PhD program in the summer.”

Danielle Miyagishima

Gateways 2012
MD-PhD Student at Yale University School of Medicine

“Gateways to the Laboratory was hands-down the most influential experience of my entire undergraduate education. If it were not for the program, I feel that I would not have had the confidence or the knowledge to be a competitive MD-PhD applicant. It gave me my first look into what an MD-PhD career can look like and a 'family' that I know will always be there to mentor me.”

Raul Martinez-McFaline

Gateways 2008 and 2009
Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program graduating class of 2022
Pediatrics Resident, University of Massachusetts T.H. Chan School of Medicine

“The Gateways to the Laboratory Program paved the path towards becoming a physicianscientist. I am currently in the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program and the skills that I use on an every-day basis were founded in Gateways. Without a doubt I would not be where I am today were it not for this exemplary program.”

Barry Breaux, MD, MBA

Gateways 2006
MD, MBA, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Internal Medicine Physician, Sutter Health

“My Gateways experience both confirmed and launched my career path in Medicine. The exposure to basic science research with clinical implications as well as physician and student mentors was invaluable. It was early enough in my education where I could have chosen any path while having just a general interest in the life sciences. Gateways gave me the confidence and reassurance to make a commitment. Although eventually I realized research was not my calling, my eyes were opened to the vast importance and possibilities created from such an investigational foundation. I would definitely point to my summer spent at the Tri-Institute as a pivotal moment in my education and training, and I will always be grateful for the tremendous opportunity.”

Taylor Wallace

Gateways 2019
MD-PhD student, Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program

Through the Gateways to the Laboratory Summer program, I learned that becoming a physician-scientist is more than just treating patients and conducting research. It is building a bridge between clinical care and developing a deeper understanding of biological processes to create new treatment options for patients. During weekly journal clubs, I had the opportunity to further my knowledge of basic science as well as discuss the implications that scientific research has on medical treatments. Being able to communicate these ideas from both a research standpoint as well as from a physician’s standpoint began to show me the types of questions that physician-scientists ask. This was furthered in my experiences in the lab where my project focused on treatment options for patients with a specific PTEN mutation. I saw how my research can have a direct impact on clinical care. The Gateways program had a huge impact on my understanding of how science and medicine are merely extensions of one another and showed how interconnected they are. It is one of the main reasons why I decided to pursue an M.D.-Ph.D. degree.