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January 2011 Newsletter

Nurturing the Physician-Scientist Through the Lean Years

The success of healthcare efforts for children and families depends critically on the continuous development of the patient care and research workforces and the maintenance of the dialogue between them.  Both research and clinical medicine are intensely social enterprises. The more the issues of our patients fuel our basic science laboratories and the more our basic science findings fuel our clinical capabilities, the better off our patients and families will be.  This requires training and mentoring of physicians who speak the language of science and researchers who speak the language of clinical medicine. One of the most robust ways to ensure this dialogue is to train and mentor physician-scientists who work as the interface between the laboratory and the clinic.  But this is quite an expensive enterprise!  Undergraduate and medical school together take 8 years.  Residency in Pediatrics takes another 3 years.  Fellowship in a specialty takes 3 additional years.  And only after that training does the “trained” individual begin in earnest the mentored component of a research career.  This mentored component generally occupies the next 2 to 5 years of a person’s career.  Salary support for both mentor and mentee, without immediate promise of revenue in return, must come from somewhere.  And that somewhere must have the wherewithal to make an investment in a person and an idea. For many in the academic arena, the National Institutes of Health has helped shoulder this investment. Partnership with the university and medical center at which the mentee works is the hallmark of these arrangements.  And these arrangements are indispensable to the nurturing of physician-scientists in academic medical centers. 

The physician-scientists at Golisano Children’s Hospital have been fortunate to be the beneficiaries of three NIH-funded programs that provide start-up support for mentored junior faculty scholars.