Combined DVM/PhD Program


Students enrolled in the Combined DVM-PhD Degree program pathway earn two doctorate degrees, the PhD and the DVM. The curriculum is structured as a  1.5 years DVM + 4 years PhD + 2.5 years of clinical DVM training, because a PhD degree is results-based, rather than time-based, the period of time to its completion may vary.


  • First laboratory rotation during the summer prior to entering the program
  • Enroll in the DVM curriculum and complete 1.5 years of courses in that curriculum
  • Second laboratory rotation during the first-year DVM distribution period at the beginning of the Spring semester
  • Third, and last, laboratory rotation the summer following first year of DVM
  • Select a research mentor at the end of the third rotation
  • Transfer from the DVM program to the PhD program in the Spring semester of second year
  • Take A exam within 1-2 years of transferring into the PhD program
  • Complete research project within 3-4 years of transferring into the PhD program
  • Take B exam to complete PhD portion of program, PhD degree is then conferred.
  • Return to the DVM program in the Spring semester to complete the final two and a half years of the DVM curriculum, DVM degree is then conferred.

Program Guidelines:

DVM-PhD program guidelines

Curriculum Components

The foundation of the Combined DVM-PhD Degree program pathway lies in the strength and scope of the educational opportunities it provides. There are five components of the curriculum:

DVM Curriculum

Our DVM curriculum fosters critical thinking, communication, and clinical reasoning skills to complement a comprehensive background in the biomedical and clinical disciplines that are the foundation of veterinary medicine.

Laboratory Rotations

Trainees are required to rotate through at least three research laboratories. The purpose of the rotations is to enable each student to assess a variety of training opportunities before selecting a research mentor, who will also serve Chair of the Special Committee.

The Chair may be a faculty member either of the College of Veterinary Medicine or another college, but must be a member of the Cornell Graduate School faculty. Although the time spent in each laboratory may vary, it is expected that each rotation will be a meaningful experience.

Used to submit new rotation information to the Office of Graduate Education

The BBS rotation evaluation process provides a framework for constructive discussion of the student’s laboratory rotation.
The rotation evaluation will has three components:

Step 1 - Student EvaluationONLINE FORM
Student completes online self evaluation. This evaluation will be emailed to your rotation mentor and student will be copied on the message.

Step 2 - Mentor EvaluationONLINE FORM
Faculty submits online response which will then be emailed back to faculty mentor to be shared with student prior or during the required face to face dialogue.

Step 3 - Face to Face discussion

Progress Reports

The CDOC has developed two new requirements to provide students enhanced guidance from the CDOC during critical points in their PhD studies:

  1. Students who have been approved for a 5th year of PhD training will submit a brief 4 month progress report to the CDOC (submit to Arla)
    1. Format: Short list of bullet points that addresses the following: 
      1. What have you accomplished in the past 4 months? 
      2. Using a month-by-month outline, how do you plan to finish up experimentation by the end of the year? 
    2. The goal is to ensure that the student is on track to complete the needed experimentation prior to returning to the DVM curriculum. 
    3. This new policy will apply to students starting their 5th year of PhD training this summer and beyond. 
    4. For current students starting the 5th year of their PhD, this is due by the end of November. 
  2. Students in the first year of their PhD studies will submit a brief 6 month progress report for review by the CDOC (submit to Arla)
    1. Format: Short list of bullet points that addresses the following: 
      1. What have you accomplished in the past 6 months? 
      2. What are your plans and goals for the next 6 months? Is the project progressing in a positive direction or are you reconsidering project priorities and, if so, what is the new anticipated direction?
    2. The goal of this policy is to help ensure that CD students receive guidance and support in the early months of establishing their PhD work to set them on a productive track. 
    3. This new policy will apply to students starting their PhD studies in Spring 2021 and beyond. 

Graduate Courses

During your first year in graduate school, you will take BioAP7100 — Translational Biology (spring semester), and BioAP6100 — By Experimental Design; Survival skills for graduate students (fall semester).  You will also take an Ethics course BioMG7510 - Ethical Issues and Professional Responsibilities and a Clinical Biostatistics course (VTPMD 7070).

Additional graduate courses will be taken before the A-exam. These courses will be selected to meet the requirements from the graduate field and from the student graduate committee. Information about courses can be found in the Courses of Study catalog.

Clinical Rotations & Pathways

To ensure broad preparation, each student is required to complete the same set of 12 Clinical Rotations. In addition, students must select one of six Clinical Pathways, comprised of seven additional rotations. This allows students to tailor a component of their clinical training to meet their interests and professional goals.

PhD Degree Requirements and Dissertation


  • Examination for Admission to PhD Candidacy ("A-Exam") - A student is admitted to doctoral candidacy after passing a comprehensive examination administered by his or her special committee.
  • This examination is either oral or written and oral, as determined by the special committee. The passing of this examination certifies that the student is eligible to present a dissertation to the graduate faculty.
  • The A Exam may be taken after two registration units have been accumulated in a PhD degree program.
  • Final Examination for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree ("B-Exam") - A doctoral candidate takes the final examination upon completion of all requirements for the degree but no earlier than one month before completion of the minimum registration unit requirement.
  • A minimum of two registration units must be earned between passing the A-exam and scheduling the B-exam. This oral exam covers the general subject of the dissertation.


PhD degree students must present a dissertation - including an abstract not to exceed 350 words, signed by the special committee chair, acceptable in scholarship and literary quality.

Acceptance of the thesis or dissertation requires the approval of all the special committee members. Ordinarily, the thesis or dissertation is written in the student's major subject of study and under the direction of the chair of the special committee. With the approval of the committee, a student may elect to write the thesis or dissertation under the direction of the representative of a minor subject.