Physician-scientists in the United States at 2020: Trends and concerns

Howard H. Garrison, Timothy J. Ley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Physician-scientists comprise a unique and valuable part of the biomedical workforce, but for decades there has been concern about the number of physicians actively engaged in research. Reports have outlined the challenges facing physician-scientists, and programs have been initiated to encourage and facilitate research careers for medically trained scientists. Many of these initiatives have demonstrated successful outcomes, but there has not been a recent summary of the impact of the past decade of effort. This report compiles available data from surveys of medical education and physician research participation to assess changes in the physician-scientist workforce from 2011–2020. Several trends are positive: rising enrollments in MD-PhD programs, greater levels of interest in research careers among matriculating medical students, more research experience during medical school and rising numbers of physicians in academic medicine, and an increase in first R01 grants to physician-scientists. However, there are now decreased levels of interest in research careers among graduating medical students, a steady decline in MDs applying for NIH loan repayment program support, an increased age at first R01 grant success for physicians, and fewer physicians reporting research as their primary work activity: all of these indicators create concern for the stability of the career path. Despite a recommendation by the Physician-Scientist Workforce in 2014 to create “real-time” reporting on NIH grants and grantees to help the public assess trends, this initiative has not been completed. Better information is still needed to fully understand the status of the physician-scientist workforce, and to assess efforts to stabilize this vulnerable career path.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22253
JournalFASEB Journal
Volume36
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2022

Keywords

  • physician-scientist
  • research
  • training
  • workforce

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