Building a PhD on research experience gained during clinical specialist training

Building a PhD on research experience gained during clinical specialist training

Helga M. ÷gmundsdžttir & Gunnsteinn Haraldsson. Faculty of Medicine, University of Iceland, ReykjavÌk, Iceland.


Most Icelandic medical graduates obtain their clinical specialist training abroad, mostly in Sweden and the USA, but also e.g. Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands and the UK. In Sweden doctors have the opportunity to combine their clinical specialist training with research and many of them obtain a PhD degree. In the USA young medical-doctors (MDís) are frequently involved in research but the American system makes it difficult for them to gain a doctorate. The Faculty of Medicine offers these young MDís the opportunity to collect their research together into an academic format under the following clause of the regulations on doctoral studies:

ìDoctoral candidates who have experience in scientific methods, have completed research projects and published scientific papers on a well-defined topic which could form the basis of a doctoral thesis, are subject to the same system as others, i.e. a supervisor and doctoral committee shall be appointed, see arts. 11 and 14. The doctoral committee evaluates the experience, research work and writings of the doctoral candidate for doctoral studies, and provides guidance on the completion of research work, writing-up and completion of the thesis.î

The candidate is thus given the opportunity to work in a focused and disciplined manner with the support of a supervisor and a doctoral committee. The time needed for completion of a thesis is usually one to two years.

The PhD programme at the Faculty of Medicine was started in 1995. The current number of enrolled PhD students is 55, of these 11 have a medical degree. The total number of PhD graduates is 26. Four MDís have completed PhDís with the described method.

Offering this opportunity to build a PhD on already obtained research experience has allowed young MDís to add the academic dimension to their work thus enhancing their career prospects.