About the STAR Program

The Specialty Training and Advanced Research (STAR) Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA provides aspiring physician-scientists formal, dedicated research training concurrent with clinical residency or fellowship for both MD-PhD graduates and for those wishing to obtain a PhD.

Since 1993, the STAR Program at UCLA has been supporting physician-scientists with opportunities to obtain a PhD or engage in rigorous scientific training through advanced post-doctoral research in a supportive environment. In this world-class research university setting, physician-scientists receive protected research time, tuition, PGY salary, and dedicated mentorship from renowned faculty throughout the university. Over 230 physician-scientists have completed the STAR Program, and about 80% remain in successful careers in academics, research, and biotech. STAR alumni successfully compete for federal research funding and are at the forefront of scientific breakthroughs that are advancing our understanding of medicine, research, and patient care.

The STAR Program at UCLA offers physician-scientists both the required months of clinical training and research training in one of the four following tracks:

  • Basic Science: In this STAR pathway, clinical fellows (or, in some specialties, residents) pursue PhD graduate work in a basic or computational science with faculty in any department at UCLA including the Samueli School of Engineering or at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
  • Health Services/Outcomes: In this STAR pathway, clinical fellows (or, in some specialties, residents) pursue PhD graduate work with faculty in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health or the Pardee RAND Graduate School.
  • Postdoctoral Research Training: A 2-3 year post-doctoral STAR pathway is offered for fellows (or, in some specialties, residents) who already have a PhD.
  • STAR-PSTP: The STAR Physician-Scientist Training Program (PSTP) was developed for internal medicine residents with research experience, allowing them to actively participate in research and STAR activities, and to receive mentorship in preparation for STAR fellowship application. Those who match to the PSTP at the internship level may receive guaranteed spots in an internal medicine subspecialty fellowship and protected research time.

Our Commitment to the Physician Scientist

Mentorship: Physician-scientists in the STAR fellowship pathways can count on personalized scientific mentorship from their thesis advisor, career guidance from directors of the STAR Program, and peer advice from the >50 other physician-scientists in the program. In our supportive research community, mentors closely guide trainees throughout all stages of their careers extending well into the junior faculty stage and beyond. Whether they need support finding their niche, competing for funding, securing letters of recommendation, or negotiating a faculty position leading to research independence, the STAR career mentors are there to help them achieve their goals.

Dedicated Research Time: Training in the STAR Program guarantees physician-scientists dedicated research time that, in many ways like a sabbatical, allows fellows to find their scientific identities and develop their investigative niche. This protected research time and mentoring prepares STAR physician-scientists to develop outstanding grant applications.

Funding Support: The STAR program commits to funding full salary and tuition support for physician-scientist trainees to complete their PhD and reach their maximum potential at our world-class research institute and its premier academic health system. Physician-scientists completing the STAR Program are trained to successfully compete for national funding with graduates securing over $500 million in NIH grant funding in the past 30 years.

Founded in 1993. More than 235 Graduates. More than $500 million in NIH grant Funding. 82% remain in active research.

STAR Graduates: Leading a Life of Impact

The STAR Program encourages our graduates to lead rather than follow. Our graduating physician scientists are focused on building healthier lives for humanity and advancing the fields of medicine and science. STAR graduates have launched independent research programs and achieved leadership positions including editor-in-chief, training program director, division chief, department chair for neurosurgery, obstetrics and gynecology, and anesthesiology, assistant vice chancellor for research, medical director, vice president for research, chief medical officer, chief scientific officer, chief health officer, institute director, university president, and director of science and policy for the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States.

2023 STAR Program Symposium Highlights