Physician Leaders Call for Action to Create a New Generation of Physician-Scientists

Revitalizing the pipeline is of critical importance for health challenges, they say


Newswise — CLEVELAND -- In a perspective article appearing in the Aug. 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, a group of prominent physician-scientist leaders, including senior pharmaceutical executives and Nobel laureates, proposes a plan for increasing the number of physicians who conduct research looking for tomorrow’s breakthroughs and cures.

They write, “Revitalizing the physician-scientist pipeline is of critical importance to overcoming current and future health challenges.” 

As part of that effort, they announce the establishment of a nonprofit foundation, the Physician-Scientist Support Foundation (www.thepssf.org), which has a mission to build a sustainable and diverse physician-scientist workforce by supporting the development of investigators who will make fundamental discoveries that improve human health.

Lead author Mukesh K. Jain, MD, Chief Academic Officer at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and Vice Dean of University Hospitals Affairs at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, said, “Physician-scientists have been a driving force in biomedical research and have made major contributions to medical breakthroughs. However, in the past 40 years, the proportion of U.S. doctors engaged in research has dwindled from a peak of 4.7 percent of the overall physician workforce in the 1980s to about 1.5 percent today

“The need to take action is now.  This decrease comes at a time when we crucially need innovations in medicine, as the population ages and communicable diseases spread more rapidly and widely around the world,” he said.

The authors enumerate a diverse set of challenges that have resulted in the decline of physician-scientists. They propose solutions to augment entry of medical trainees into research, reduce attrition, and increase support for this career path both through institutional and national efforts. They also advocate for the creation of a national network of academic institutions committed to supporting physician-scientists. 

For their foundation, they seek partners who share their sense of urgency about refilling the pipeline of physician-scientists.

“Together, we can catalyze a new golden age by cultivating and supporting the next generation of talented physician-scientists,” said Dr. Jain.

Other authors on the paper are Vivian G. Cheung, MD, from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Michigan; Paul J. Utz, MD, and Brian K Kobilka, MD, both from the Stanford University School of Medicine; Tadataka Yamada, MD, from Frazier Healthcare Partners, and Robert Lefkowitz, MD, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Duke University Medical Center. Drs. Kobilka and Lefkowitz are also co-recipients of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

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For more information about Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, please visit: case.edu/medicine.

About University Hospitals / Cleveland, Ohio

Founded in 1866, University Hospitals serves the needs of patients through an integrated network of 18 hospitals, more than 50 health centers and outpatient facilities, and 200 physician offices in 16 counties throughout northern Ohio. The system’s flagship academic medical center, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, located in Cleveland’s University Circle, is affiliated with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The main campus also includes University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the nation; University Hospitals MacDonald Women's Hospital, Ohio's only hospital for women; University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, a high-volume national referral center for complex cardiovascular procedures; and University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, part of the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. UH is home to some of the most prestigious clinical and research programs in the nation, including cancer, pediatrics, women's health, orthopedics, radiology, neuroscience, cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, digestive health, transplantation and urology. UH Cleveland Medical Center is perennially among the highest performers in national ranking surveys, including “America’s Best Hospitals” from U.S. News & World Report. UH is also home to Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals – part of The Harrington Project for Discovery & Development. UH is one of the largest employers in Northeast Ohio with 28,000 physicians and employees.  Advancing the Science of Health and the Art of Compassion is UH’s vision for benefitting its patients into the future, and the organization’s unwavering mission is To Heal. To Teach. To Discover. Follow UH on Facebook @UniversityHospitals and Twitter @UHhospitals. For more information, visit UHhospitals.org


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