Accelerating Breakthrough Discoveries into Medicines

Physician-Scientist Mission and History

The Physician-Scientist Mission: Transforming Medicine By Advancing Standard Of Care

Jenner, Lister, Salk. The names of physician-scientists who have left their mark on medical history are as familiar to today’s physicians as the Hippocratic Oath.

“Physician-scientists” can be defined as individuals with MD degrees (alone or combined with other advanced degrees) who devote a substantive percent of their professional effort to research anywhere along the entire spectrum of biomedical inquiry, according to Andrew Schafer, MD, Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College. In his publication, The Vanishing Physician-Scientist?, Dr. Schafer describes the sweeping scope of research that is the physician-scientist’s domain.

Jonathan Stamler, MD, President of the Harrington Discovery Institute, calls the nation’s 14,000 physician-scientists “individuals who are uniquely suited to identify and drive discoveries into usable products for patients. These individuals are mission-oriented to pursue translating fundamental scientific knowledge into new therapies. The orientation of physician-scientists makes them uniquely capable of identifying solutions."

Yet today, the physician-scientist may be in danger of becoming a vanishing breed. A Yale University report in 2010 concluded that there are many barriers for today’s physician-scientist to overcome, citing the under-representation of physician-scientists on medical school admissions committees; a dearth of physician-scientists on bedside teaching rounds; and a disproportionate tendency for women to leave research at all stages of their careers. Add to that limited and constrained federal grantmaking, skyrocketing research costs and declining approval of new treatments, and the survival of the physician-scientist looks questionable.

The Harrington Discovery Institute is dedicated to helping the nation’s most promising physician-scientists advance breakthrough discoveries into medicines that benefit their patients and society. The Harrington Discovery Institute is committed to the unifying mission to change standard of care.