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AAMC Responds to RFI Regarding Support for Physician Scientist

November 7, 2014—The AAMC Nov. 3 submitted a response  to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) request for information (RFI) regarding ways to better support physician scientist trainees transition to “independent” research careers [see Washington Highlights, Oct. 17]. 

In particular, the RFI sought input on a “Pathway to Independence” award mechanism, which provides support for mentored training, followed by a funded research project. While the “K99-R00” mechanism has already proven effective in helping Ph.D. biomedical scientists in their transition to research careers, the NIH’s Physician Scientist Workforce Working Group recommended in June 2014 that the agency adapt a K99-R00-type award to the particular needs of physician scientists and other clinician investigators, such as nurses or veterinarians.

The AAMC letter recommends the K99-R00 award provide additional flexibility in the length and terms of support for the training and the research components, to adjust to the situations of young physician scientists, who often have added medical training or service responsibilities, but did not recommend a specific allocation for time or length of award.

The letter also notes the term “independent research career” is misleading, as physician scientists increasingly work in teams where their specialized skills and expertise contribute in important ways.

Similarly, mentoring can also be accomplished by teams. Mentors, the AAMC notes, “do not need to be limited to the physician scientist’s clinical specialty or field – for example, an oncologist (internal medicine subspecialty) could mentor physician scientists in training in the fields of pathology, surgery and many others, as well as medical oncology. A mentoring team should consist of mentors in the trainee’s clinical and research areas.”

The issue will likely be discussed at the next meeting of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director in Dec. 2014.


Irena Tartakovsky, M.D.
Director, Constituent Engagement
Telephone: 202-862-6134

Stephen Heinig
Director, Science Policy
Telephone: 202-828-0488


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
Sr. Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806