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October 28, 1998

Encouraging Clinical Research by Physician Scientists

Author Affiliations

From the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.

JAMA. 1998;280(16):1442-1444. doi:10.1001/jama.280.16.1442

Why is it important that physicians actively conduct clinical research? Well-trained PhD scientists, working with physicians, can often design meaningful experiments to be conducted in human subjects and can collect and analyze data independently or in collaboration with physicians. But only the well-trained physician scientist can thoroughly understand, interpret, and properly care for human subjects during studies that involve an intervention. Even more important, the physician scientist is uniquely positioned to ask the relevant questions that will redefine the therapeutic and preventive opportunities and to identify the human conditions, inherited or acquired, that offer new opportunities to advance health science. The conclusions and recommendations of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director's Panel on Clinical Research reported by Nathan et al1 provide useful additional data and make constructive recommendations to strengthen clinical research and to increase the participation by a wide variety of health professionals and scientists in the clinical research enterprise. The leadership of the NIH has responded with new K23, K24, and K30 awards designed to stimulate the field. These awards and the establishment of a medical student program in clinical research at the NIH are important initiatives, but much more must be done.

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