May 22, 2018—(BRONX, NY)—A new study published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), coauthored by Einstein’s Myles Akabas, M.D., Ph.D., finds that most graduates of M.D.-Ph.D. programs continue in work consistent with their training—conducting research, developing new diagnostics, devices and treatments, and helping train the next generation of scientists and clinicians. Dr. Akabas, professor of physiology & biophysics, of medicine, and in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, is the director of Einstein’s Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), one of 48 federally-funded M.D.-Ph.D. programs in the country, supporting approximately 900 trainees.
Myles Akabas, M.D., Ph.D.
“Physician-scientists play a critical role in biomedical research and the healthcare system,” explains Dr. Akabas. “Their experience caring for patients brings a unique perspective to basic and translational research. They are essential for advancing the science of medicine, and implementing new research into practice.”
There is concern that the number of physician-scientists is dwindling. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Physician-Scientist Workforce Working Group reported in 2014 that few physicians were engaged in biomedical research, and those that did were increasingly older investigators approaching retirement. In an encouraging trend, the AAMC study found that 80 percent of M.D.-Ph.D. graduates are employed in places where they can conduct research, including 68 percent in academia, 6.7 percent in industry and 1.9 percent at a federal agency.
“Completing an M.D.-Ph.D. program is not the only path to becoming a physician-scientist, but it is a well-established one,” notes Dr. Akabas. “It’s heartening to know that these programs, many of them federally-funded, are effective.”
“Completing an M.D.-Ph.D. program is not the only path to becoming a physician-scientist, but it is a well-established one. It’s heartening to know that these programs, many of them federally-funded, are effective.”– Myles Akabas, M.D., Ph.D.
The NIH established the MSTP program in 1964, and Einstein was one of the three awardees in that inaugural year. Einstein’s program has been continuously funded, bolstered by additional institutional funds, ever since. Of the 350 Einstein MSTP graduates who have completed postgraduate training, 80 percent are engaged in biomedical research and academic medicine. They hold faculty appointments at 83 medical schools, academic medical centers, NIH and the Food and Drug Administration. Others have obtained positions at 28 pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Collectively, the graduates have published more than 16,000 papers and hold over 260 patents.
The AAMC report, National MD-PhD Program Outcomes Study, evaluated the careers of 10,591 alumni who graduated from one of 80 M.D.-Ph.D. programs between 1964 and 2014. Data for the study came from 6,786 alumni who responded to the survey and from AAMC databases. An April 2018 AAMC Analysis in Brief summarizes the study and highlights key findings. The study was coauthored by Lawrence Brass M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and Irena Tartakovsky of the AAMC.