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  • Washington Highlights

    AAMC Comments on NIH Strategies to Enhance Diversity in Physician Scientist Workforce

    Irena Tartakovsky, Director, Constituent Engagement
    Stephen Heinig, Director, Science Policy

    The AAMC Dec. 28 submitted a comment letter on the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) request for information (RFI) regarding Strategies to Enhance Diversity in the Physician-Scientist Workforce (PSW).

    The letter focuses on three general components specified by the NIH: educational pathways, institutional and programmatic characteristics of degree programs, and career decision points and pathways.

    The AAMC calls for studies to evaluate existing programs offering exposure to science, wide dissemination of existing pipeline strategies that demonstrated meaningful impact on diversity in medical education and research training, and sustained support for the academic medical and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) communities and physician-scientists who are engaged in mentoring and career counseling of local youth with an interest in this career path.

    The letter encourages “the scientific community, including NIH, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), and other stakeholders to develop a broader definition of a physician-scientist that includes diverse characteristics and identifies unique evaluation metrics that will be inclusive enough to capture the whole spectrum of clinical and scholarly activities.” If not properly recognized for unique backgrounds and breadth of experience, the AAMC expresses concern that “research program residents, clinical fellows, and junior faculty from underrepresented groups might experience disadvantages more acutely when they join the research or clinical workforce,” when compared to their colleagues who are either clinicians or scientists.

    AAMC supports centralized institutional oversight for physician-scientist training, professional development, and coordinated mentorship throughout the continuum of training. The NIH’s National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) should include physician-scientist mentors from diverse backgrounds who can lead in developing and disseminating best practices in mentoring of clinical scientists.

    The letter also recommends that NIH considers development of evaluation criteria and a national study of all variances of physician-scientist training pathways. Outcomes and impact of currently existing training, hiring, and professional development programs should be analyzed with successful practices widely disseminated. Resources should be available to support implementation of useful practices and effective elements of unconscious bias and cultural competency training programs. National metrics for tracking retention and success of physician-scientists from underrepresented groups should be developed and implemented.