Changing times have depleted the ranks of physicians who enter into careers as researchers. The shortage of physician-scientists has prompted the National Institutes of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and similar organizations to offer fellowships and other incentives to entice graduated M.D.s into research careers.

But these inducements may come too late in the education of a physician. Scientists often choose their careers because they were exposed at some point to a laboratory. The thrill of working with instruments, animals, numbers, and so forth—combined with the inspiration of a mentor or admired role model in the family or at college—has recruited many medical students into science in the past.

The first two years of medical school generally are taught by basic scientists who are investigators first and teachers second. These two years ought to be an excellent source of inspiration for channeling susceptible medical students into a scientific career....

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