There are increasing needs for physician-investigators to translate the rapid expansion of knowledge, technology/interventions, and big data into the clinical realm at a time of increasing age-related disabilities and communicable diseases. Yet, the number of physician-investigators has continued to decline, and only a small number of medical school graduates in the United States are actively engaged in research. This problem may be particularly pronounced in small- and medium-sized academic institutions due to more limited educational and mentoring infrastructure. Neither efforts by the federal government nor isolated institutional programs alone have been effective yet in solving this problem. This article describes an integrated institutional strategy undertaken at Penn State College of Medicine that is focused on developing and sustaining a physician-investigator workforce. Key elements of this strategy are new programs to close gaps in the professional life cycle of physician-investigators, dedicated senior leaders collaborating with an experienced and diverse advisory committee, and a data-driven approach to programmatic evaluation. In this article, the implementation of integrated institutional programs including Institutional Mock Review for evaluation of grant proposals before submission, physician-scientist faculty mentoring, and effort matching programs are described. Detailed tactics are offered for tailoring these programs to a particular institution's background to maximize both efficiency and sustainability. The overarching strategy includes engaging multidisciplinary faculty as mentors and mentees, partnering with both clinical and basic science departments, integrating new programs with established approaches, and cultivating an emerging generation of physician-investigators as near-peer mentors and future leaders. This approach may serve as a useful paradigm for building an environment to nurture junior physician-investigators at other mid-sized academic institutions and may also have value for larger institutions in which there is fragmentation of the efforts to sustain the research careers of physicians.
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