Texas A&M University is establishing an Academy of Physician Scientists with assistance from a $2.5 million grant from Burroughs Wellcome Fund’s Physician-Scientist Institutional Award. 

The A&M College of Medicine, A&M College of Engineering, Houston Methodist and the Texas Medical Center will come together to create the academy. The five-year grant was awarded to 10 degree-granting institutions so they can create research training programs that physicians can participate in during their education and residency. 

Each year, five medical students will conduct research with a mentor and undergo career training. Additionally, five physician scholars will receive two years of research and career training throughout their residency. Academy of Physician Scientists Director David Huston said the program is for physicians who want to delve into the engineering sector of medical research. Huston is also the associate dean and director of the Clinical Science and Translational Research Institute of Texas A&M College of Medicine.

“Their focus can span from engineering genes, molecules or tissues to imaging to creating devices for surgical, diagnostic or therapeutic applications,” Huston told Vital Record.

Each student selected for the academy will have a team of mentors to assist them and can attend focus group meetings, retreats and senior faculty- and institutional leader-led mentoring sessions. 

Huston said this engineering mindset sets A&M’s program apart from other Burroughs Wellcome Award recipients. It also pairs well with programs at A&M including MD Plus and MD/PhD graduate programs and EnMed, which helps students earn an M.D. and an M.S. in engineering simultaneously.

Other grant recipients include the University of California-Los Angeles, the University of Chicago, Washington University and Weill Cornell Medicine Physician-Scientist Academia.

The University of Chicago’s program aims to break down barriers in medical schools that discourage entry into basic and translational science research careers with resources like seminar series and scholarships. UCLA’s Cultivating and Sustaining M.D. Researchers program will be under their dean’s office and includes an emphasis on finding women during fellowship to provide an additional two years of research time and support. 

Huston and other faculty members are currently working on curricula for the academy. The Burroughs Wellcome Fund grant is meant to give medical students who become interested in an academic research career opportunities to receive proper training, Huston said.

“Currently, there is no well-designed mechanism for those individuals to really get the mentored training and guidance and expertise to enable them to have the best chance at success,” Huston told Texas Medical Center. “This is an effort to recognize that need, and it is designed to catalyze innovative strategies to increase the bandwidth of this pipeline of physician scientists.”

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