Physician-Scientist - How to Become a Physician-Scientist

Physician-Scientist

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Physician-Scientist Job Description

 

Physician-scientists carry out laboratory research in addition to any other career paths they choose to pursue, including translational and clinical research, academic teaching, or treatment of patients. This job is open to allopathic and osteopathic professionals and to both physicians and dentists.

They may work at private or group practices, academic research centers, or serve as researchers at private or public facilities related to health and medicine, such as government health departments or private pharmaceutical companies.

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Responsibilities

 

There are many duties and responsibilities for a physician-scientist. Along with clinical duties, they must research and engage in different facets of academia to progress medical science. A physician-scientist has two aspects to their career. They must do all the things a doctor does, which is a long list in of itself, and carry out duties of a scientist.

Their responsibilities range from:

  • Diagnosing illness

  • Treating diseases

  • Prescribing medicine

  • Observing patients

  • Specializing in an area of focus

 

When they switch over to their scientist duties they are responsible for complex research and lab work. They must be able to observe and predict outcomes of experiments and use their knowledge and reason to decide in which direction they want to take their focus and how to advance medicine.

Some duties are:

  • Maintain laboratories

  • Research

  • Design experiments

  • Carry out experiments

  • Supervise staff

 

If they teach, they have all the duties of a professor. They can be responsible for publishing studies, maintaining classrooms, administering tests, developing coursework, and all the other duties of a professor of academia. A physician-scientist can basically take on three different jobs all umbrella'd under the practice of medicine. 

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Skills

 

To be a physician-scientist you need to have a laundry list of skills. You will be splitting your time between clinical and lab duties, so it's important you posses the fire it takes to juggle so many tasks.

Some of the skills are, but not limited to, the following:

Self-Motivated

Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments.

Commitment to Continuing Education

Offering your full attention to an individual person or group in order to fully understand problems and their nature.

Empathy

Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Service-Oriented

Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one. 

Commitment to Advancing Science and Medicine

Must be able to identify complex problems and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions. 

Integrity

Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter.

Teaching

Must be trustworthy because you have people's lives in your hands and what you do could help or hurt them. They are entrusted with a great responsibility and must live up to it. 

Management

Gauging how people react and read their body language to decipher their feelings and predict their actions. They must be able to determine if people could be a risk to themselves or others and to distinguish truths from lies.

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Working Conditions

 

Physician-Scientists enjoy many options when it comes to career choices; they can either work entirely as researchers or they can combine research and teaching, or work as a doctor and treat patients. They frequently serve as faculty members at research centers and medical schools. With both clinical and research skills, they can also secure positions in biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, or in government laboratories and health organizations.

 


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How to Become a Physician-Scientist:

 

To become a physician-scientist you must complete college, medical school, and a residency program. You are becoming a doctor, so you must go through those proper channels first. You can specialize in any field of medicine you want, or get your dentistry degree.

To specialize in a field you have to complete a fellowship program after/during your residency. In all, it can take from 13-15 years to complete all the school necessary. You can get a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or another Ph.D. in a field of interest as well which could take five more years and some postdoctoral training.

 

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

 

Academic requirements for a physician-scientist are predictably complex, with a bachelor's degree with coursework in premedical subjects such as Biology, Physics, and Chemistry required. Proven success and enthusiasm for research and a minimum 3.5 GPA greatly assists in acceptance into higher-level research-related programs. Your college coursework might look like the following:

Grade Level Example Courses

Freshman Year

 

  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • Biology & Lab
  • Calculus I
  • English 101
  • English 102
  • Humanities Requirement
  • Physics I & Lab
  • Physics II & Lab

Sophomore Year

  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab
  • Fundamentals of Microbiology & Lab
  • Genetics
  • Physiology 
  • Humanities Requirement
  • Electives

Junior Year

 

  • Cell Structure & Function
  • General Virology & Lab
  • Microbial Genetics & Lab
  • Biochemistry I
  • Biochemistry II
  • Physics
  • Electives

Senior Year

  • Upper Level Biology
  • Upper Level Chemistry
  • Upper Level Physics
  • Upper Level Psychology
  • Upper Level Kinesiology 
  • Electives

  

2. Take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) or Dental Admissions Test (DAT)

 

The Dental Admissions Test (DAT) or Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) follows for most candidates. Following this, the physician-scientist may pursue a clinical medical or dentistry degree or (in many cases) set out to earn a dual degree, either a DO or MD-PhD or a DDS or DMD-PhD. These programs award both a research PhD and a medical or dental degree. Several of these programs benefit from NIH funding. A combined degree can shorten education by 2-4 years compared to the 10 years needed to earn a medical or dental (MD or DMD) and PhD separately.

If you want to go to dentistry school, you must first take the DAT. Looks contains the following:

 

Section/Category  Section Breakdown

Survey of the Natural Sciences

 

  • 100 questions
  • 90 minutes
  • Tests biology, organic chemistry, and general chemistry
Perceptual Ability Test
  • 90 questions
  • 60 minutes
  • Tests non-verbal visual acuity and perception

Reading Comprehension

  • 50 reading items
  • 60 minutes
  • covers comprehension of science and dental topics
Quantitative Reasoning
  • 40 questions
  • 45 minutes
  • Tests ability to reason with numbers

 

To be admitted into medical school, candidates must first take the MCAT, or Medical College Admission Test, a 7.5 hour, standardized, multiple choice exam used to assess the applicant's knowledge of science, reasoning, communication, and writing skills. 

 

The MCAT is divided into four sections:

 

Section/Category  Section Breakdown
Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry
Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics

Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior

  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology
Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills
  • 53 multiple-choice questions
  • 90 minutes
  • Tests reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences

 

You can find study materials, MCAT registration, and your test scores on the AAMC website here.

 

3. Earn a Medical or Dental Degree (4 - 5 Years)

 

You have two program choices in medical school to become a physician-scientist: a Doctor of Medicine (MD) program or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program. Each degree focuses on the same methods of treatment, but a DO degree also focuses on osteopathic manipulative medicine. Whichever path you choose, you are facing 4-5 years in medical school.

Your first couple of years will focus on the following:

  • Basic pathology
  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Other life sciences

In the second half of the program, you will work with doctors and other healthcare professionals to advance your skills and focus in on an area of focus. You can (and should) participate in research programs, if you get the invitation. Since your career will be heavily focused on research, you want to be as involved in that aspect as possible. 

If you go into dentistry, you will have 4 years of Dental School where you will learn the practices to become a dentist and hone in on skills that cater to this area. You will focus on the anatomy of the mouth and diseases and illnesses that can exist in the mouth. You learn how to make and execute implants, reconstructive practices, cleaning, and many other specialties.  

 

4. Complete a Residency Program

 

After medical school, you have to complete your residency. It's important to determine the area of medicine you want to work in to find a residency program that will suit your needs. During this time, you will be supervised by other healthcare professionals and get hands on training to build upon your skills and confidence, to allow you independent practice.

During your residency, you can expect to work from anywhere to three to five years in a clinical or hospital setting. It's here you can really hone in on your skills and build upon your knowledge. At least one year of residency will be focused on laboratory practice, but you should prepare for more depending on if you want the short-track or the long-track residency program and what you will specialize in. 

Once you have completed your residency and have figured out what path you want to specialize in, you can complete a fellowship program that can be postdoctoral work if you have a Ph.D. or more clinical and laboratory training. It readies you for a faculty position and launches you into the field. 

 

5. Earn the Required License & Certification

 

After you complete your residency you have to apply for your medical license and board certification. 

If you graduate from a MD program, you can take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). If you graduate from a DO program, you can take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA)

 

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Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
12.05.2016
The Department of Pathology at The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine is seeking physician-scientist candidates for tenure track faculty positions (Assistant/Associate or Full Professors). Successful candidates...
12.05.2016
The University of Iowas Francois M. Abboud Cardiovascular Research Center (ACRC) is recruiting a physician-scientist or scientist at the level of Assistant or Associate Professor in the Tenure Track to join a group of investigators with interest...
12.05.2016
The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, Department of Neurology is currently recruiting candidates for tenure track positions in basic or translational research in the neuroscience field related to neurological...
12.05.2016
The Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Immunology is seeking a full time specialist trained in Rheumatology at the rank of Associate (non-track), Assistant Professor, Associate Professor or Professor. The candidate will focus primarily...
12.05.2016
The Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Immunology is seeking a full time specialist trained in Allergy/Immunology at the rank of Associate (non-track), Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, or Professor. The candidate will focus...
12.04.2016
Department: Research AdministrationA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: Manages operations for a large and complex program, lab, division or department. Serves as a key member of the leadership team with a primary focus on administrative...
12.05.2016
The Department of Pathology at The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine is seeking basic scientist and physician scientist candidates for a tenure-track faculty position associated with an endowed chair appointment....
12.05.2016
The Department of Pathology at The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine is seeking basic scientist and physician scientist candidates for a tenure-track faculty position associated with an endowed chair appointment....
  1. PHYSICIAN SCIENTIST Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    The Department of Pathology at The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine is seeking physician-scientist candidates for tenure track faculty positions (Assistant/Associate or Full Professors). Successful candidates...
  2. TT CARDIOVASCULAR GENETICS PHYSICIAN-SCIENTIST Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    The University of Iowas Francois M. Abboud Cardiovascular Research Center (ACRC) is recruiting a physician-scientist or scientist at the level of Assistant or Associate Professor in the Tenure Track to join a group of investigators with interest...
  3. PHYSICIAN SCIENTIST Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, Department of Neurology is currently recruiting candidates for tenure track positions in basic or translational research in the neuroscience field related to neurological...
  4. PHYSICIAN SCIENTIST RHEUMATOLOGIST Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    The Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Immunology is seeking a full time specialist trained in Rheumatology at the rank of Associate (non-track), Assistant Professor, Associate Professor or Professor. The candidate will focus primarily...
  5. PHYSICIAN SCIENTIST ALLERGIST/IMMUNOLOGIST Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    The Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Immunology is seeking a full time specialist trained in Allergy/Immunology at the rank of Associate (non-track), Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, or Professor. The candidate will focus...
  6. Manager - Research Operations Job Rochester, MN Mayo Clinic - Rochester
    Department: Research AdministrationA Life-Changing CareerResponsibilities: Manages operations for a large and complex program, lab, division or department. Serves as a key member of the leadership team with a primary focus on administrative...
  7. ENDOWED CHAIR IN CANCER RESEARCH Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    The Department of Pathology at The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine is seeking basic scientist and physician scientist candidates for a tenure-track faculty position associated with an endowed chair appointment....
  8. ENDOWED CHAIR IN IMMUNOLOGY RESEARCH Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    The Department of Pathology at The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine is seeking basic scientist and physician scientist candidates for a tenure-track faculty position associated with an endowed chair appointment....