A physician-scientist is just what you might think: a trained, practicing physician who devotes a great deal of his or her time and energy to biomedical research. On one hand, as a doctor, the physician works to cure and to heal patients, with all the commitment and compassion one expects from a medical professional. On the other hand, as a researcher, the scientist strives to make scientific advances in an area of of interest that can help understand a test, disease or treatemtn that eventually can be brought into practice and used, ultimately, to cure and to heal.
2. What unique challenges face a physician-scientist?
The medical profession often sees these two roles as exclusive of one another. Practicing doctors sometimes see physician-scientists as less than a full physician; likewise, clinicians may see them as less than a scientist. However, the multidisciplinary approach allows physician-scientists to develop a deep understanding of the practical aspects of treating patients, which, in turn, gives them special insight into the importance of research and clinical trials. They are critical in making the bridge beteen clinicians and basic scientist.
3. What advice would you give to physician-scientists entering the field?
As in any competitive field, a positive, disciplined outlook and an ability to set and achieve goals will help achieve success. Find mentors; in a field that is constantly being challenged, it helps to have role models who can offer encouragement and guidance. In addition, surround yourself with colleagues and collaborators. Working with other physician-scientists will elevate your research and create more opportunities in the field.
Dr. David Faxon is a physician-scientist currently serving as Vice Chair of Medicine for Strategic Planning for the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. Over the course of his career, he has contributed extensively to the medical literature on cardiovascular disease and treatment.