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August 15, 2018

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JID Article Focuses on Optimizing the ID Physician-Scientist Workforce

IDSA, HIVMA, and PIDS are concerned by both the continued decline in the number of ID trainees pursuing careers as physician-scientists and the attrition of junior and mid-career physician-scientists. The inability to replace the aging physician-scientist workforce will have a negative, long-lasting impact on our biomedical research enterprise and its ability to drive the discovery of new treatments for important infectious diseases.

As part of our efforts to address these concerns, the three societies have published a joint Journal of Infectious Diseases article on policy issues and recommendations for optimizing the infectious diseases physician-scientist workforce in a JID supplement on the role of ID physician-scientists in the evolving landscape of biomedical research. The article discusses policy recommendations for securing and optimizing the ID physician-scientist workforce in the areas of education, training, compensation, and mentorship, as well as ways to improve federal research funding, cross-sector collaboration, and workforce diversity. Key recommendations include:

  • Increase collaboration between federal agency, university, and specialty society partners to incentivize physician-scientist programs in areas that intersect with ID.
  • Develop institutional federal research mechanisms that allow trainees to easily identify and meaningfully interact with a pool of qualified potential mentors. Improve mentorship programs and career support for underrepresented minorities during MD and/or PhD training at the federal and institutional levels.
  • Create grant award incentives to spur more established researchers to lead program projects or other multi-project grants in which early stage and mid-career investigators can serve as principal investigators on sub-projects.
  • Develop institutional strategies for improving the physician-scientist pipeline, such as flexible programs for obtaining a PhD and/or MD and increasing tuition reimbursement during training, including reimbursement for master’s-level graduate programs.
  • Expand initiatives such as the NIH R38 StARR program to offer research support during the fellowship training years and convert the NIH K award to a 5-7-year award that requires clear milestones for continued funding and provides R01 level funding in the latter half of the award.
  • Specialty societies and research groups should implement initiatives that support the scientific career development of minority groups by providing access to professional networking and educational events that are otherwise often out of reach.

Our societies will continue to address these issues and others that affect the ID physician-scientist pipeline, and we welcome your thoughts via MyIDSA or via email to Jaclyn Levy, IDSA’s Senior Program Officer, Science & Research, as this important discussion evolves.

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