Individuals who wish to become vascular scientists or researchers generally need a doctoral degree with a focus on vascular biology. However, vascular science professionals who wish to implement certain research practices and work with patients in clinical trials are required to hold a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. Those who want hands-on training to become vascular specialists or vascular surgeons must earn a Doctor of Medicine or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree, which is followed by more focused residency and fellowship training in vascular medicine or surgery. Students can expect to spend 4 to 8 years being educated, depending upon the program.
Students seeking to pursue an M.D., Ph.D., or D.O. degree will need an undergraduate degree in a related field. A master's degree may be required, depending on the chosen advanced degree program. Most programs will require an internship.
Doctor of Medicine
Individuals interested in becoming vascular physicians first pursue a professional medical degree. During their initial training, students learn about the cardiovascular system and can choose electives that focus on vascular topics, such as biological and genetic causes of vascular disease, vascular pharmacology and technological advances affecting vascular science.
Ph.D. in Vascular Biology
Graduate degree programs in vascular science include in-depth training in biomedical science, as well as seminars, thesis research and laboratory work. Students learn about vascular diseases and study trends in vascular science. They learn to research, develop funding requests, work on vascular experimentation methods and analyze testing results.
Combined M.D./Ph.D. in Vascular Biology
Some schools offer combined programs for future doctors who also desire training in clinical research. These programs generally take around eight years to complete. Students learn about drug therapy, anatomy and physiology, as well as medical ethics and regulations. They also gain hands-on experience in patient care and assessment, as well as learn analytical approaches needed for medical trial and research implementation.
Licenses, Certifications and Continuing Education
In order to legally practice, vascular physicians need a license from their state medical board. In order to obtain this, these doctors must have graduated from an accredited medical training program and passed the national medical licensing exam.
Voluntary board certification is also available through the American Board of Medical Specialties Member Boards in various vascular specialty areas, such as vascular surgery and internal medicine, as well as subspecialty areas, including vascular neurology, vascular radiology and cardiovascular disease. Continuing education requirements are needed to maintain certification and licensure; a renewal exam is also required for board certification maintenance.
During their last two years of medical school, aspiring vascular practitioners gain general patient diagnosis and care experience through required internship training. After medical school, they are assigned to one hospital for more advanced residency training, which often lasts four years and involves rotations in each specialty area. After residency training, these doctors pursue a 2-year fellowship for more focused training in vascular surgery or vascular medicine. Similarly, graduates of a Ph.D. program may go on to postdoctoral clinical fellowship training in vascular science.
Vascular physicians and researchers can often look to college and university research centers, which may sponsor 1-2 hour seminars on new developments in the field. Some hospitals may host conferences for their employees, which may include guest speakers, case study presentations or training lectures. Specialty groups, such as the Peripheral Vascular Surgery Society, also provide informational workshops and meetings throughout the year.
Many continuing education resources are available online for vascular scientists and doctors, including blogs and e-newsletters. Physicians may benefit from online audio and video presentations on vascular topics, in addition to case studies, which are often posted on clinic websites. Reference books and journals may also be helpful.
Those interested in pursuing an education in vascular science may choose to seek an M.D., Ph.D., or a combined M.D./Ph.D. degree. To practice as a vascular physician, graduates of doctoral programs will need to sit for the state medical board.