MD-MA in Biomedical Informatics

MD-MA Flyer

The MD-MA in Biomedical Informatics is a joint degree between the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) and the Department of Biomedical Informatics in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) of Columbia University. The purpose of the combined program is to integrate graduate-level training in Biomedical Informatics with the training of medical students. It is geared specifically to those medical students who desire to enhance their medical training with research and training in computational skills and data-driven research as it applies to medicine, biology, and public health.

The aim of the MD-MA program is to develop research and computational skills for medical students, which are greater than the individual programs, and which will enable medical students the opportunity to contribute to and become innovators in improving medicine and health care with solutions involving information technology and data science.  Upon successful completion of the program, graduates are expected to have a strong foundation in the fundamental techniques of biomedical informatics as well as in medicine, and will have a stronger ability to face the current challenges in medicine and health care related to computational medicine, computational biology, machine learning in healthcare, digital health, and public health informatics.

Degree Requirements

Third-year P&S students are eligible to apply for the dual MD-MA degree.  The fourth year of medical school (fall and spring terms) will be spent as an MA student in our program. Students enroll in a minimum of 24 points (12 points in each term) over the course of two semesters. Six points of medical school coursework are counted towards the 30 point requirement for the GSAS MA degree. Students complete the master’s essay as part of their scholarly project once they return to medical school in their 5th year.  The MD-MA degree takes a total of 5 years to complete.

The MA curriculum

30 points of Columbia University graduate (4000 level and above) coursework and 2 residence unitsMD students use 6 points of P&S coursework towards the MA degree requirement.

All courses are taken for a letter grade, with the exception of BINF G4099 Research Seminar (P/F based on attendance).  Students must earn a grade of B or above to count courses towards DBMI degree requirements.  Academic advisors approve individual course plans.  Satisfactory academic progress is monitored by means of reporting forms due at the end of the fall and spring terms.

Semeste1 (Fall)
Course Numbe& Title Points Instructor Prerequisites
Required: BINF G4000 Acculturation to Programming and Statistics 3 K. Natarajan None
Required: BINF G4001 Introduction to Computer Applications in Health Care and Biomedicine 3 G. Gürsoy None
Required: BINF G4003 Symbolic Methods 3 C. Weng None
Required: BINF G4009 Research Seminar 0 S. Collins-Rossetti None
Elective: BINF G4008 Special Topics: Decision Support OR Approved Substitute 3 O. Mamykina None
Required: Medical School as Domain Objective 3 (Used for Both P&S MD
and GSAS MA)
As Assigned None
Semeste2 (Spring)
Course Numbe& Title Credits Instructor Prerequisites
Required: BINF G4002 Machine Learning for Healthcare 3 A. Averitt BINF G4000
Required: BINF G6001 Projects in Biomedical Informatics: Master’s Research 3 As Selected None
Required: BINF G4099 Research Seminar 0 S. Collins-Rossetti None
Required: BINF G6002 Research Methods 3 O. Mamykina None
Elective: BINF G4011 Acculturation to Medicine and Clinical Informatics 3 S. Kinberg None
Required: Medical School as Domain Objective 3 (Used for both P&S MD and GSAS MA) As Assigned None


Master’s Essay
Every master’s student completes a research project, enrolling in BINF G6001 Projects in Biomedical Informatics and completing a Master’s Essay. The content of the MA essay and deliverables is at the sole discretion of the research advisor.  The Essay is the culmination of the research project.  It requires two faculty readers, one of whom is the research advisor from the projects section in which the student enrolled; the other is a faculty member appointed within the department chosen by the research advisor and student.Fulfillment of the MA essay is designated by the successful completion of the MA essay form found on the DBMI website. Students finish this master’s essay as part of their scholarly project upon returning to medical school. The MA essay form must be completed and submitted to the relevant faculty (research advisor, 2nd faculty reader appointed as faculty in DBMI, chair) a minimum of one month prior to the GSAS degree conferral dates (February, May, October) found online through the academic calendar on the University Registrar’s website. Failure to adhere to deadlines may result in a delay of graduation to the next eligible degree conferral period.

Eligible students may apply for educational loans. Master’s students seeking financial support should visit the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Student Financial Services websiteThere are neither teaching nor research assistantships in the department to which students may apply. 

Students apply for the MA degree through the Registrar’s website the semester preceding their anticipated date of degree conferral (degrees are conferred in February, May and October).


Questions about the program may be directed to:
Dr. Herbert Chase
Professor of Medicine (in Biomedical Informatics)

Marina Bonanno
Graduate Program Manager