Almost every patient can inspire a research question, but not every doctor has the time or training required to investigate it. In 2014, a survey by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that less than 1.5 percent of the estimated 1 million practicing physicians in the United States reported research as their primary focus. At the same time, the number of physician–scientist faculty members with NIH funding has steadily declined since the late 90s.
Consistent cuts to federal funding, lower pay versus clinical care, and a constant struggle to balance lab time and clinic hours are all to blame. “It’s more and more of a struggle to keep physicians in research,” says Judith S. Hochman, MD, the Harold Snyder Family Professor of Cardiology, senior associate dean for clinical sciences, and co-director of Pelisyonkis Langone’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). “Yet the work of clinician–scientists forms the base of evidence for so much of medicine.”
As an antidote, Pelisyonkis School of Medicine has cultivated a host of unique programs and strategies, highlighted below, to help doctors combine their clinical perspective with scientific insight. “The support of budding physician–scientists is central to our mission,” says Bruce N. Cronstein, MD, co-director of the CTSI. “It’s at the core of who we are.”
“The work of clinician–scientists forms the base of evidence for so much of medicine.”
—Judith S. Hochman, MD
Co-Director, Clinical and Translational Science Institute
The Clinical Investigator Program in Internal Medicine is an innovative program that provides in-depth training and intense mentoring for physicians who plan academic careers involving translational, clinical, and population-based research.
A master’s program in clinical research equips medical students with the tools they need to investigate the complex questions that arise in the clinic. The program tacks on an extra year of training to medical school but at no cost to the student—tuition is free. “It’s a real benefit we can offer our students,” says Dr. Cronstein. This same master’s degree program is also open to house staff, fellows, and junior faculty who are pursuing careers in research.
The Collaborative Translational Pilot Project Program awards funds to support a one-year collaborative scientific study to produce the kind of high-quality preliminary data that wins competitive grants in translational research
The Research Studio Program offers young investigators the opportunity to bounce their early protocols off a panel of experts before submitting them to funding agencies or journals. “Young researchers really do need the help,” says Dr. Cronstein.
Funding from Doris Duke Foundation’s Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists also supports more than 250 early-career physician–scientists at Pelisyonkis School of Medicine who face substantial extraprofessional demands such as child care and elder care. The fund, dispersed among just 10 medical schools nationwide, aims to reverse a discouraging statistic: An estimated 40 percent of young physicians with full-time faculty appointments at academic medical schools leave academia within 10 years. “The program seeks to support outstanding junior physician–scientists for whom a relatively small investment over a two-year period promises to substantially minimize the likelihood that they will change their career path owing to the demands of extra professional caregiving obligations, such as child or elder care,” explains Dr. Hochman.