DGSOM Discovery

Substantive scholarly experience

A period of protected time for a deep and substantive creative and scholarly experience in an area of their interest.

MS3 Schematic

Discovery Year Three Timeline

The third year begins with final clerkship rotations following by a dedicated study period for exams. Discovery and the Longitudinal Clinical Experience run concurrently for the remainder of the year. 

View the Full Heals Curriculum Schematic (PNG)

DGSOM Discovery

DGSOM Discovery is a required component of the M.D. curriculum to provide third-year medical students with a nearly year-long period of protected time for a deep and substantive creative and scholarly experience in an area of their interest. The program encourages the acquisition of attitudes and skills for self-directed, lifelong learning and scholarship. DGSOM Discovery can include enrollment in a concurrent master’s degree program offered at UCLA or participation in the DGSOM Discovery Area of Concentration (AoC) Program.

Discovery Experiences

Discovery Areas of Concentration (AoC) 

DGSOM Discovery Area of Concentration Program is a faculty-mentored, scholarly experience. There are eight DGSOM Discovery AoCs. Areas of concentration include a broad range of disciplines to align with student interests and better prepare students to impact the future of healthcare. Opportunities unique to Los Angeles and specific strengths of UCLA were also taken into consideration during planning.


Discovery Roadmap

Students work with faculty to design and implement a project from multiple areas to frame clinically relevant questions, develop strategies for answering the questions, analyze their findings, and present their results. 

Gives students an understanding of the spectrum of challenges— from political, to sociological, to biomedical—that limit the provision of health care to the world’s people. Provides students with the skill-set to function effectively in any global healthcare setting, often within resource-limited environments. 

Using cross-disciplinary methods such as those from philosophy, social science, film, literature, art, and law, students examine the meaning and implications of medicine and medical research. Explores the moral, social, and humanistic dimensions of medicine and biomedical science. 

Learn entrepreneurship approaches and how to move a health innovation idea from concept to reality. Design meaningful solutions to the current pressing needs in health care. 

Empowers student physicians to be advocates for justice through instruction in human rights and social determinants of health, mentorship opportunities, and applied advocacy and research experiences. 

Prepares students for engagement and leadership in the field of medical education through training in learning theory, curricular design and delivery, evaluation and assessment, teaching and education, and implementation of novel tools and techniques. 

Provides insights into big data, information management, computational methods of structuring and analyzing biomedical data, and the opportunity to conduct large-scale data analysis along the entire biomedical research pipeline 

Combines didactic, seminar, clinical, and research components with the goal of providing students with skills to function more effectively in any healthcare setting. This quality improvement work involves not only individual patients but also health systems and institutions. 

Dual Degree Programs

  • MD/MBA (Masters in Business Administration) 
  • MD/MPH (Masters of Public Health)
  • MD/MPP (Masters of Public Policy)
  • MD/MS (Masters of Science in Clinical Research)
  • MD/MLS (Masters of Legal Studies) 
  • MD/MA (Masters of Arts in Education)


Med School Graduate

Discovery FAQ

Discovery begins as early as the first year of medical school. The core Discovery period begins in the third year. This is nearly eight months of dedicated time for students to pursue scholarly work or a dual degree. 

DGSOM Areas of Concentration (AoC) include a broad range of disciplines to align with student interests and better prepare students to impact the future of healthcare. Opportunities unique to Los Angeles and specific strengths of UCLA were also taken into consideration during planning.

There are eight DGSOM Discovery AoCs:

  • Basic, Clinical, and Translational Research
  • Global Health
  • Social Science and Medical Humanities
  • Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Health Justice and Advocacy
  • Bioinformatics and Data Science
  • Medical Education and Leadership
  • Health Delivery Improvement Science

No. Students may only select one Area of Concentration experience for their Discovery year.  

The Discovery experience is divided into three phases: Exploration, Preparation, and Discovery. During the exploration phase, which begins as early as the first year of medical school, students receive a catalog of Discovery offerings. Next, students interact with faculty through a fair and other orienting activities. During the first and second year of medical school students meet with UCLA faculty including Educators for Excellence to discuss their interest areas and obtain guidance on selecting a Discovery path. Finally, students may also correspond individually with Discovery mentors/faculty to learn more about their work and assess mutual fit.

Submitting a research project proposal for the Discovery Areas of Concentration must be completed and submitted by a UCLA Faculty. All proposals are reviewed by the Deans Office and Course Director. Upon approval, the research project is listed in the Discovery Areas of Concentration catalog (PDF). Projects can be submitted at any time during the year. Review of proposals generally take 4-8 weeks.  

Discovery AoC Request for Submission Template 

After reviewing the available Discovery experiences, students must first decide whether they would like to pursue a dual degree path or an Area of Concentration (AoC) path.

Process for students pursuing a dual degree

  • Students will complete the standard application process for their intended dual degree program.
    • Please see individual program websites for application timelines and deadlines.
    • Please note that admission to a dual degree program is not guaranteed and students are highly encouraged to plan for a backup Discovery experience.
  •  In order to inform DGSOM of their plans to pursue a dual degree, students pursuing a dual degree will submit a Dual Degree Intention form in the spring of their MS2 year.

Process for students pursuing an AoC experience

Due Dates 

For students in the class of 2026, the deadline to submit EITHER your Dual Degree Intention form OR Discovery Mentorship Agreement form is May 19, 2024.

DGSOM offers the following dual degrees:

  • MD/MBA (Masters in Business Administration) 
  • MD/MPH (Masters of Public Health)
  • MD/MPP (Masters of Public Policy)
  • MD/MS (Masters of Science in Clinical Research)
  • MD/MLS (Masters of Legal Studies) 
  • MD/MA (Masters of Arts in Education)


Students are encouraged to pick a backup path for their Discovery year. While DGSOM works closely with the master’s degree program, admissions cannot be guaranteed.

All students are required to complete the third year of medical school, DGSOM Discovery. Students interested in pursuing a master’s degree program outside of UCLA should request a Leave of Absence (LOA) for the duration of the outside degree program. Students must complete DGSOM Discovery in addition to any LOA time taken for a masters degree outside of UCLA. This may extend your MD program beyond four years. 

Students pursuing a dual degree must adhere to the admission timeline of the master’s degree program. Refer to the program’s website for up-to-date information. Students picking an Area of Concentration will have until Spring of their MS2 to submit their selection.

For the class of 2025 and 2026, we have a compiled list of dates you should be aware of. This includes, dates for deadlines and various sessions for all things discovery. This list of important dates will continue to change and new things will be added periodically.

Important Dates For Discovery 

Two-year dual degree programs run concurrently in the third and fourth years of medical school. Refer to the sample study plan for dual degree programs and meet with your academic advisor to plan your fourth-year activities. For students selecting an Area of Concentration, a fourth-year experience may be available based on discussions with the project mentor. Grading and other Discovery support are provided during the third year only.

Discovery Contacts

Shamar Jones
Course Coordinator


Basic, Clinical, & Translational Science Petal Leads

Ivan Lopez, PhD- IALopez@mednet.ucla.edu

Marmar Vaseghi, MD- MVaseghi@mednet.ucla.edu

Medical Education and Leadership Petal Lead

Elena M. Stark, MD, PhD- estark@mednet.ucla.edu

Health Delivery Improvement Science Petal Lead

Mitchell Wong, MD, PhD- MitchellWong@mednet.ucla.edu

Bioinformatics & Data Science Petal Lead

Jennifer Fang, MD- jfang@dhs.lacounty.gov

Innovation & Entrepreneurship Petal Lead

Jennifer McCaney, PhD- JMcCaney@mednet.ucla.edu

Health Justice & Advocacy Petal Lead

Natasha Thomas, MD, PhD- NaThomas@mednet.ucla.edu

Social Science & Medical Humanities Petal Lead

Ishan Asokan, MD, MSc- IAsokan@mednet.ucla.edu

Global Health Petal Lead

Kathryn Dovel, PhD- KDovel@mednet.ucla.edu


Longitudinal Clinical Experience

Longitudinal clinical experiences at both a primary care site and a specialty site complement the core clerkship period to support the continued development and trustability of our students to become outstanding clinicians while further exploring specialty choices.

Longitudinal Clinical Experience Contacts

Course Director:

Tahlia Spector, MD, FACEP
Educator for Excellence and Chair, 3rd Year Preceptorship

Course Coordinator:

Renea Fuller