Thirty-eight young physicians have been selected as fellows by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to spend the next three years studying the molecular epidemiology of tuberculosis, cell death during HIV-1 infection, the role of homeobox genes in forebrain development, and other subjects at the frontier of biomedical research.
The physician postdoctoral fellows will receive special research training for careers as physician-scientists, experts who combine clinical experience and basic research skills. This combination gives them a unique understanding of diseases and helps them think in fresh ways of possible new treatments and cures.
The physicians are the latest selected in a highly competitive HHMI program that supports young doctors in obtaining research training in the study of basic biological processes and disease mechanisms, at leading laboratories. All have completed at least two years of clinical training since graduating from medical school.
"Physicians with clinical experience bring a special perspective to biomedical research," said HHMI President Purnell W. Choppin, M.D. "They have seen how diseases afflict people and are driven to advance the biological knowledge that will lead to better clinical approaches."
In this seventh year of the Postdoctoral Research Fellowships for Physicians program, the new fellows include 8 women and 30 men who will be working with research mentors at 22 universities, research institutions, and hospitals, including 7 HHMI laboratories. The three-year fellowships provide annually a stipend of $40,000 to $57,500, a research allowance of $16,000, and an institutional allowance of $13,000.
This year's group of awardees includes 33 physicians from the United States and one each from Australia, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Overall, 87 physicians are now being supported under the fellowship program at an annual cost of about $6 million.
"Many of the medical problems we face will not be solved until we learn more about basic biological processes and disease mechanisms. Through their work in molecular and cellular biology, these fellows will help contribute to our understanding how signals inside and outside the cell reach the nucleus and direct the life and death of the cell, in health and disease," said Joseph G. Perpich, M.D., J.D., HHMI's vice president for grants and special programs. "Medicine will be practiced increasingly at the molecular level in the 21st century, and these fellows will be at the forefront now and in their future careers."
The HHMI program differs from similar postdoctoral opportunities because it offers research support only to physicians who have clinical experience since receiving their medical degrees. It complements other HHMI initiatives that support medical students, predoctoral students, and scientists outside the United States. HHMI has the nation's largest private program to improve science education.