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Poof: Are physician-scientists gone?

In my latest 1:2:1 podcast, I talk about an issue plaguing academic medicine: the disappearance of the physician-scientist.

In the introduction to a new book, The Vanishing Physician-Scientist, its editor, Andrew Schafer, MD, writes:

Few members of the general public are even aware that much of the original research which has driven progress in medical knowledge throughout history has been conducted by physicians who are themselves directly involved in the practice of medicine.

In recent years, due to a wide variety of factors, namely the lack of consistent and stable research funding, physician-scientists are vanishing from the research scene. The total number of physician-scientists involved with National Institute of Health research has not increased in over 25 years.
Beyond research money, there are a lot of other reasons why the nation is facing this shortage. While women have gained an extraordinary presence in the medical profession they are still not on the highest rungs on medical school faculties. Then there are lifestyle issues. There's a sea-change in attitudes from recent med school graduates who want a better work-life balance and don't see the rigrous demands of life in academic medicine as worth the potential tradeoffs.

Schafer, chair of the department of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and physician-in-chief at New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center, joins a slew of his colleagues from academic medicine to distill the problems and propose some solutions. It's clear that one game plan is to start early. The pipeline has to "originate at more formative stages of education."

Starting early is so critical. When talking to our prize-winning researchers at Stanfiord, I've found, when asked about their inspiration, they're always able to point to that one chemistry or biology teacher in high school who lite their fuse.

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