Combined MD/PhD programs are designed to allow students interested in becoming research physicians to pursue course work and degrees in both medicine and an additional area of interest simultaneously. These additional areas in which student choose to do research are usually connected to human biology and disease which play into their futures as research physicians. Research physicians often spend the majority of their time doing research but are also involved in patient care. Many of the graduates from MD/PhD programs go on to have careers as faculty members in medical schools, universities, or other research institutions. Special financing opportunities are often available for dual degree programs. These opportunities include the availability of stipends and tuition waivers for accepted students. 
    Although national institutionalization of MD/PhD programs began in the 1970’s, unique opportunities exist within each program. Most programs follow a six to eight year plan where the first two years are devoted to the preclinical part of medical education. The next two to three years are usually spent doing research in a field of the student’s choice. The final two years of the program then make up of the clinical part of medical education. Upon the completion of this course of study students are recognized as both medical doctors and doctors of philosophy. 
    MD/MPH programs may be the dual degree program with fastest growing popularity, designed to train students to be both practicing physicians and public health leaders. Students in these programs graduate with a medical degree and a master’s in public health. Pursuing an MPH during medical education often means taking a year off before or after the first year of clinical rotations to study at a School of Public Health. This may be at the same university or at a nearby institution. The timing of this break in medical education is determined by the fact that many schools do not accept dual degree applications from pre-clinical medical students. Some students choose to complete their medical education before earning a degree in public health. In that scenario, completing the MPH requirements can be part of residency training or a fellowship program..
   There are a wide variety of opportunities available when it comes to dual medical degree programs. At the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine collaboration between the medical school and other graduate programs including the Law School, the Graduate School, the Owens School of Management, and the Divinity School. These collaborations provide students with the option of combining their medical pursuits with another area of interest to further individualize their learning experience, a trend evident throughout modern medical education and its reform.