The 5th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster and the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the two most catastrophic nuclear accidents in history, both occurred recently. Images of Chernobyl are replete with the international sign of radioactive contamination (a circle with three broad spokes radiating outward in a yellow sign). In contrast, ongoing decontamination efforts at Fukushima lack international warnings about radioactivity. Decontamination workers at Fukushima appear to be poorly protected against radiation. It is almost as if the effort is to make the Fukushima problem disappear. A more useful response would be to openly acknowledge the monumental problems inherent in managing a nuclear plant disaster. Lessons from Chernobyl are the best predictors of what the Fukushima region of Japan is coping with in terms of health and environmental problems following a nuclear catastrophe.
Andrew R. Marks
This position statement originated from a working group meeting convened on April 15, 2015, by the NHLBI and incorporates follow-up contributions by the participants as well as other thought leaders subsequently consulted, who together represent research fields relevant to all branches of the NIH. The group was deliberately composed not only of individuals with a current research emphasis in the glycosciences, but also of many experts from other fields, who evinced a strong interest in being involved in the discussions. The original goal was to discuss the value of creating centers of excellence for training the next generation of biomedical investigators in the glycosciences. A broader theme that emerged was the urgent need to bring the glycosciences back into the mainstream of biology by integrating relevant education into the curricula of medical, graduate, and postgraduate training programs, thus generating a critical sustainable workforce that can advance the much-needed translation of glycosciences into a more complete understanding of biology and the enhanced practice of medicine.
Peter Agre, Carolyn Bertozzi, Mina Bissell, Kevin P. Campbell, Richard D. Cummings, Umesh R. Desai, Mary Estes, Terence Flotte, Guy Fogleman, Fred Gage, David Ginsburg, Jeffrey I. Gordon, Gerald Hart, Vincent Hascall, Laura Kiessling, Stuart Kornfeld, John Lowe, John Magnani, Lara K. Mahal, Ruslan Medzhitov, Richard J. Roberts, Robert Sackstein, Rita Sarkar, Ronald Schnaar, Nancy Schwartz, Ajit Varki, David Walt, Irving Weissman
Clinical investigators within the Canadian and international communities were shocked when the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced that their funding for the MD/PhD program would be terminated after the 2015–2016 academic year. The program has trained Canadian clinician-scientists for more than two decades. The cancellation of the program is at odds with the CIHR’s mandate, which stresses the translation of new knowledge into improved health for Canadians, as well as with a series of internal reports that have recommended expanding the program. Although substantial evidence supports the analogous Medical Scientist Training Program in the United States, no parallel analysis of the MD/PhD program has been performed in Canada. Here, we highlight the long-term consequences of the program’s cancellation in the context of increased emphasis on translational research. We argue that alternative funding sources cannot ensure continuous support for students in clinician-scientist training programs and that platform funding of the MD/PhD program is necessary to ensure leadership in translational research.
David D.W. Twa, Jordan W. Squair, Michael A. Skinnider, Jennifer X. Ji
Fraudulent business practices, such as those leading to the Enron scandal and the conviction of Bernard Madoff, evoke a strong sense of public outrage. But fraudulent or dishonest actions are not exclusive to the realm of big corporations or to evil individuals without consciences. Dishonest actions are all too prevalent in everyone’s daily lives, because people are constantly encountering situations in which they can gain advantages by cutting corners. Whether it’s adding a few dollars in value to the stolen items reported on an insurance claim form or dropping outlier data points from a figure to make a paper sound more interesting, dishonesty is part of the human condition. Here, we explore how people rationalize dishonesty, the implications for scientific research, and what can be done to foster a culture of research integrity.
Nina Mazar, Dan Ariely
The 2014 NIH Physician-Scientist Workforce (PSW) Working Group report identified distressing trends among the small proportion of physicians who consider research to be their primary occupation. If unchecked, these trends will lead to a steep decline in the size of the workforce. They include high rates of attrition among young investigators, failure to maintain a robust and diverse pipeline, and a marked increase in the average age of physician-scientists, as older investigators have chosen to continue working and too few younger investigators have entered the workforce to replace them when they eventually retire. While the policy debates continue, here we propose four actions that can be implemented now. These include applying lessons from the MD-PhD training experience to postgraduate training, shortening the time to independence by at least 5 years, achieving greater diversity and numbers in training programs, and establishing Physician-Scientist Career Development offices at medical centers and universities. Rather than waiting for the federal government to solve our problems, we urge the academic community to address these goals by partnering with the NIH and national clinical specialty and medical organizations.
Dianna M. Milewicz, Robin G. Lorenz, Terence S. Dermody, Lawrence F. Brass, the National Association of MD-PhD Programs Executive Committee
As academic physician-scientists, one of the most important things we do is mentor young trainee-scientists. There obviously is no one right way to mentor or a set of rules one can follow; it’s a very personal matter, and very much depends on one’s personality. For much of my career, I gave very little thought as to how I mentored my trainees or to whether I was any good at it. Like many investigators, perhaps, I was just too busy with the daily activities of research to consider how I was guiding my students. Here, I take a look back and reflect on my experiences as a mentor and the factors that I believe contribute to the success of trainees as independent scientists.
Robert J. Lefkowitz
Physician-scientists, with in-depth training in both medicine and research, are uniquely poised to address pressing challenges at the forefront of biomedicine. In recent years, a number of organizations have outlined obstacles to maintaining the pipeline of physician-scientists, classifying them as an endangered species. As in-training and early-career physician-scientists across the spectrum of the pipeline, we share here our perspective on the current challenges and available opportunities that might aid our generation in becoming independent physician-scientists. These challenges revolve around the difficulties in recruitment and retention of trainees, the length of training and lack of support at key training transition points, and the rapidly and independently changing worlds of medical and scientific training. In an era of health care reform and an environment of increasingly sparse NIH funding, these challenges are likely to become more pronounced and complex. As stakeholders, we need to coalesce behind core strategic points and regularly assess the impact and progress of our efforts with appropriate metrics. Here, we expand on the challenges that we foresee and offer potential opportunities to ensure a more sustainable physician-scientist workforce.
Dania Daye, Chirag B. Patel, Jaimo Ahn, Freddy T. Nguyen
As the US addresses its budget dilemma, the easiest items to cut are those with the longest-term payoff. Research stands out among this group. Biomedical research has already been markedly reduced, and further reductions appear to be in store. As a frequent witness in Congressional hearings on such matters, here I discuss the challenge of assessing the value of investments in biomedical research.
Norman R. Augustine
Shaun Coughlin, Betty Diamond, Serpil Erzurum, Linda P. Fried, J. Larry Jameson, Kenneth Kaushansky, Mary E. Klotman, Stanley Lemon, Beverly Mitchell, Paul Rothman, Charles Sawyers, Christine Seidman, Stefan Somlo
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