In 2015, a nation-wide effort was launched to track the careers of over 10,000 MD-PhD program graduates. Data were obtained by surveys sent to alumni, inquiries sent to program directors, and searches in American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) databases. Here, we present an analysis of the data, focusing on the impact of sex, race, and ethnicity on career outcomes. The results show that diversity among trainees has increased since the earliest MD-PhD programs, although it still lags considerably behind the US population. Training duration, which includes time to graduation as well as time to first independent position, was similar for men and women and for minority and nonminority alumni, as were most choices of medical specialties. Regardless of minority status and sex, most survey responders reported that they are working in academia, research institutes, federal agencies, or industry. These similarities were, however, accompanied by several noteworthy differences: (a) Based on AAMC Faculty Roster data rather than survey responses, women were less likely than men to have had a full-time faculty appointment, (b) minorities who graduated after 1985 had a longer average time to degree than nonminorities, (c) fewer women and minorities have NIH grants, (d) fewer women reported success in moving from a mentored to an independent NIH award, and (e) women in the most recent graduation cohort reported spending less time on research than men. Collectively, these results suggest that additional efforts need to be made to recruit women and minorities into MD-PhD programs and, once recruited, to understand the drivers behind the differences that have emerged in their career paths.
Myles H. Akabas, Lawrence F. Brass
MD-PhD programs were established in the 1950s as a new curriculum for training physician-scientists. Since then, the number of programs has grown considerably; however, concerns about the health of the US physician-scientist workforce have grown, as well. The largest attempt to date to assess whether MD-PhD programs are fulfilling their mission was the national MD-PhD program outcomes study, which was released as an American Association of Medical Colleges report in 2018. That study gathered information on 10,591 graduates of 80 MD-PhD programs over 50 years and concluded that most graduates have followed careers consistent with their training. Here, we provide additional analysis, drawing on survey data provided by 64.1% of alumni (75.9% of alumni with valid email addresses), plus program-supplied current workplace data for survey nonresponders to examine the relationships between medical specialty choices, training duration, research effort, and success in obtaining research funding. The results show that residency choices affect critical aspects of the physician-scientist career path, including where graduates work, how long it takes them to obtain an independent appointment in academia, and the amount of their professional time that is devoted to research. Entrants into MD-PhD programs are older, on average, now than when the programs were first established and are taking longer to graduate and complete postgraduate training. Although we found a positive relationship between professional effort devoted to research and the likelihood of having research funding, we found little evidence that the increase in training duration produces an increase in subsequent research effort. These data should provide both guidance for anyone considering this career path and insights for those who train and hire the next generation of physician-scientists.
Lawrence F. Brass, Myles H. Akabas
There is growing concern that the physician-scientist is endangered due to a leaky training pipeline and prolonged time to scientific independence (1). The NIH Physician-Scientist Workforce Working Group has concluded that as many as 1,000 individuals will need to enter the pipeline each year to sustain the workforce (2). Moreover, surveys of postgraduate training programs document considerable variability in disposition and infrastructure (3). Programs can be broadly grouped into two classes: physician-scientist training programs (PSTPs) that span residency and fellowship training, and research-in-residency programs (RiRs), which are limited to residency but trainees are able to match into PSTPs upon transitioning to fellowship (Figure 1). Funding sources for RiRs and PSTPs are varied and include NIH KL2 and T32 awards, charitable foundations, philanthropy, and institutional support. Furthermore, standards for research training and tools for evaluating programmatic success are lacking. Here, we share consensus generated from iterative workshops hosted by the Alliance of Academic Internal Medicine (AAIM) and the student-led American Physician Scientists Association (APSA).
Christopher S. Williams, Audra N. Iness, Rebecca M. Baron, Olujimi A. Ajijola, Patrick J. Hu, Jatin M. Vyas, Robert Baiocchi, Alexander J. Adami, Jeremie M. Lever, Peter S. Klein, Linda Demer, Michael Madaio, Mark Geraci, Lawrence F. Brass, Melvin Blanchard, Robert Salata, Mone Zaidi
Corinne L. Williams
The US continues to lead the world in research and development (R&D) expenditures, but there is concern that stagnation in federal support for biomedical research in the US could undermine the leading role the US has played in biomedical and clinical research discoveries. As a readout of research output in the US compared with other countries, assessment of original research articles published by US-based authors in ten clinical and basic science journals during 2000 to 2015 showed a steady decline of articles in high-ranking journals or no significant change in mid-ranking journals. In contrast, publication output originating from China-based investigators, in both high- and mid-ranking journals, has steadily increased commensurate with significant growth in R&D expenditures. These observations support the current concerns of stagnant and year-to-year uncertainty in US federal funding of biomedical research.
Marisa L. Conte, Jing Liu, Santiago Schnell, M. Bishr Omary
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