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Why Your Doctor Should Also Be a Scientist

January 3, 2019

In June 2018, a group of physician-scientists at Oregon Health & Science University published research on a compound that could stop cancer cells from spreading throughout the body. A few years before that, physician-scientists at the Scintillon Institute uncovered a molecular link between Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes.

Physician-scientists, practicing clinicians who also conduct research to develop new medicines and procedures, have provided vital contributions such as these—but they’ve also become an endangered species.

In a WIRED magazine op-ed by Kurt Amsler, Ph.D., associate dean and professor in NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine (NYITCOM), warns that if we don’t reverse the growing physician-scientist shortage, patients will lose out on the next generation of life-saving treatments and top-notch caregivers.

“Today, physician-scientists represent just one out of every 100 doctors. And many are about to retire. If we don’t do something soon, medical innovation could stagnate,” Amsler says.

These highly trained clinicians are also well-equipped to see through the “flashy pharmaceutical and medical device marketing that saturates the health care industry,” he explains. Without their scientific insight, it will become increasingly difficult for patients to receive well-informed care decisions.

Amsler contends that funding more research grants, and earmarking them for young physician-scientists, could lead to breakthrough treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases. While most funding goes to physician-scientists who are already well established in their respective fields, when young physician-scientists can’t secure grants, they often decide to abandon their research interests and practice full-time.  

He also maintains that institutions of higher education also have a role to play. Schools that only offer traditional medical degrees could create physician-scientist programs to attract more bright young people to the profession—like NYIT’s D.O./Ph.D. degree program.

“Physician-scientists bridge the gap between scientific theory and practical medicine. We need to boost their ranks.”

Read the full op-ed.

This op-ed is part of an NYIT thought-leadership campaign designed to help generate awareness and build reputation for the university on topics of national relevance. Read more op-eds by NYIT experts.