There is a projected decline in the physician-scientist workforce, according to a new study published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The report, the National MD-PhD Program Outcomes Study, tracks the careers of MD-PhD program graduates over 50 years (1964–2014) and highlights results that explored their career paths, including where these graduates work, what type of research they do, how successful they have been at securing research funding, and how satisfied they are with their career.
Darrell G. Kirch, MD
“Physician-scientists play an essential role in academic medicine through innovative research and discovery and by linking that new knowledge to clinical applications that can improve patient care and the health of our nation,” said Darrell G. Kirch, MD, AAMC President and Chief Executive Officer. “This study demonstrates that continued federal investment in training the next generation of physician-scientists is so critical.”
According to the study, nearly 80% of survey respondents are following career paths consistent with the goals of their training, including working as full-time faculty or for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), research institutes, industry, or federal agencies. More than 75% of survey respondents conduct research, and most have research grant support. Time spent in the research and clinical settings for physician-scientists in academia varies widely, with more than 50% of survey respondents spending at least half their time conducting research and nearly 23% devoting most of their time to clinical activities. Although MD-PhD programs have moved in the direction of greater diversity by sex, race, and ethnicity, enrollee diversity still lags behind that of medical schools as a whole.
The findings of the study also demonstrate that the current number of MD-PhD program graduates per year will not meet the expected needs for the physician-scientist workforce as projected by the NIH Physician-Scientist Workforce Working Group. To view the full study outcomes, visit https://members.aamc.org/eweb/upload/AAMC-National-MDPhD-Program-Outcomes-Study-2018.pdf. ■