Mytien Nguyen

Alarming Rate of Attrition Among Black MD-PhD Students Interview with:

Mytien Nguyen

Mytien Nguyen

Mytien Nguyen, MS
Department of Immunobiology,
Yale School of Medicine
New Haven, Connecticut What is the background for this study?

Response: Physician-scientists are critical for innovative translational research. Combined MD-PhD training programs are essential for developing physician-scientists. Although racial and ethnic diversity of MD-PhD matriculants has increased over the past decade, little is known about how attrition rates differ by race and ethnicity. What are the main findings? Are some of issues surrounding de-enrollment related to financial stress? Family concerns?  Inadequate preparation for MD/PhD programs?

Response:  The main finding is that Black MD-PhD students are significantly more likely than their White peers to leave MD-PhD training. In our study, we examine attrition rates adjusting for students’ performance in the MCAT, and found that after adjusting for MCAT, Black MD-PhDs are at least 50% more likely than their peers to leave MD-PhD training, suggesting that the high attrition rate for Black students are not due to differences in preparation for MD-PhD training. Although we did not examine how financial resources influence attrition from MD-PhD programs, prior studies in a cohort of MD students have shown that low-income students are more likely to leave medical school than their peers (Nguyen et al JAMA Internal Medicine 2022). What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The high attrition rate for Black MD-PhD students is alarming. The high attrition rate for Black MD-PhD students is reflective of broader racial inequities throughout the career path and could have implications for the racial diversity of the biomedical workforce. For example, in 2020, only 2% of National Institutes of Health investigators identified as Black. What recommendations do you have for future research as a results of this study?

Response: Future research should focus on understanding and mitigating the high attrition rate for Black and other students with marginalized identities. In our study, we found that Black students are more likely to leave MD-PhD training than White students, even after adjusting for academic preparedness. While current support may focus on academic progress, expansion of support to other domains of the training experience, such as learning climate and bias, is essential to create an equitable training environment.

No disclosures.


Nguyen M, Lett E, Cavazos JE, et al. Association of Racial and Ethnic Identity With Attrition From MD-PhD Training Programs. JAMA Intern Med. Published online July 31, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2023.2822,did%20not%20complete%20their%20training.


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