The Problems Of Physician-Scientists

Are the difficulties of doing both clinical and basic research hampering the progress of medical science? Sir David Weatherall is a worried man. When the Muffield professor of Medicine at Oxford University gazes out at the unsolved problems of medical science, he sees deadly diseases like cancer and circulatory problems still killing people by the millions around the world. And he fears that the diseases may remain scourges because of a failing of the scientific community. "The reason that we

Richard Smith
Feb 5, 1989
Are the difficulties of doing both clinical and basic research hampering the progress of medical science?
Sir David Weatherall is a worried man. When the Muffield professor of Medicine at Oxford University gazes out at the unsolved problems of medical science, he sees deadly diseases like cancer and circulatory problems still killing people by the millions around the world. And he fears that the diseases may remain scourges because of a failing of the scientific community. "The reason that we know so little about the pathophysiology of the common killers in the Western world may be that we are short of physician-scientists," says Weatherall.

The Oxford don is not alone in his worries. In Britain especially there is anxiety about shortages of scientists who can do both basic and clinical research. The fears have prompted a number of new programs designed to train students in both areas. But even as...