Kurt Amsler, New York Institute of Technology – Averting the Imminent Physician-Scientist Shortage

Medical innovations are on a downward trend.

Kurt Amsler, professor of biomedical sciences at the New York Institute of Technology, explores why.

Throughout his career, Kurt Amsler has focused his research on epithelial physiology, with a particular emphasis on renal physiology. His research has covered multiple areas including basic epithelial transport physiology, cystic fibrosis, polycystic kidney disease and, most recently, acute kidney injury. He has received research funding from the NIH, the American Heart Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and other organizations to support his research activities. His teaching areas of expertise include physiology and renal pathophysiology. Amsler is also a member of several national societies including the American Society of Cell Biology, the American Physiological Society, and the American Society of Nephrology. He has served on multiple national committees for these societies, and has served as a grant reviewer for the NIH, the NSF, the American Heart Association, and other philanthropic foundations. He has reviewed submitted manuscripts for a wide range of peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Amsler obtained his B.A. from New College (Sarasota, FL) in Biology, his M.Sc. from the University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) in Medical Sciences, and his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in Biomedical Sciences. Following his graduate work, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratory of Dr. E.A. Adelberg at the Yale University School of Medicine, and a Postdoctoral Fellow under Dr. R.K.H. Kinne at the Max-Planck-Institute for System Physiology. Amsler’s previous faculty positions included Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Assistant Professor, Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and Associate Professor, Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. He has also worked for a period at a biotech startup company as the director of the Biology Division.

Averting the Imminent Physician-Scientist Shortage

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The rapid introduction of new therapies and medical devices has created a surge in clinical research studies—and many questions.                                           

Have practicing clinicians deemed these therapies both clinically safe and effective?

Physicians trained in research can bridge the gap between exam room and laboratory. Many life-saving advances can be traced to physician-scientists, clinicians who seek to introduce treatments by blending their clinical experience and biomedical research.

Patient interactions allow them to identify areas in need of exploration and questions they can help answer in the laboratory. For example, studies by physicians Huggins and Hodges allowed hormone therapy to become the gold standard for patients with advanced prostate cancer.

Yet, with fewer research clinicians entering the workforce, they’ve become an endangered species. The NIH finds that less than two percent of U.S. physicians report research as a primary focus. This downward trend is continuing, potentially causing medical innovation to stagnate.

The reason for the decline is multifactorial. Physicians face ample barriers to conducting research, like disruption of clinical practice, difficulty obtaining funding, inadequate research training, and financial resources to fund both a medical and an academic degree.

If educators fail to encourage medical students to conduct research parallel to their future clinical career, we will miss opportunities to cure deadly diseases, such as cancer and HIV.

However, institutions can help avert a shortfall by removing barriers, like offering dual medical and academic degree programs, research training, and tuition reimbursement.

With these changes, universities can reassure medical students that research is worthwhile and that they can contribute to the next medical breakthrough.

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