Addressing a nationwide shortage of physician-scientists, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has established a Division of Physician-Scientists to help nurture the career development of physicians who treat patients and also want to conduct scientific research.
The division will provide resources, mentorships, and research and leadership programs to encourage and inspire physicians interested in pursuing research.
Physician-scientists are considered crucial to developing new therapeutics and approaches to diagnosing and treating disease. For example, research by physician-scientists has served as the bedrock for hundreds of FDA-approved medications, including targeted cancer therapies, statins, HIV protease inhibitors and others, according to the nonprofit Physician-Scientist Support Foundation. The group also notes that within the past three decades, the proportion of physicians who conduct basic and laboratory research has dropped to 1.5% of the overall physician workforce.
“Washington University School of Medicine has long been a leader in developing and nurturing the careers of physician-scientists, and home to some of the most influential physician-researchers in the history of medicine,” said David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor. “We already have well-recognized postgraduate programs for physician-scientists, such as the Physician Scientist Training Program and other research-track residency and fellowship pathways in our departmental clinical training programs. The new division and programs are designed to capitalize on this legacy and provide additional resources for us to expand and enhance it.
“We will follow the wonderful recipe — the ‘secret sauce’ — that has distinguished us for generations but with an ambitious agenda to build new, innovative ways to recruit exceptionally talented MDs and MD/PhDs, support their careers and enhance their success.”
The division will be an arm of the dean’s office and will be headed by Wayne M. Yokoyama, MD, the Sam J. Levin and Audrey Loew Levin Professor of Arthritis Research, who has been named an associate dean, in addition to director of the new division. Yokoyama also directs the university’s highly regarded Medical Scientist Training Program — supported by a training grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and substantial institutional commitments — which allows students to earn both an MD and a PhD in a scientific field. Additionally, he is internationally recognized for his research on natural killer cells in the body’s immune system, and is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.