Physician Scientists Of Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow

Clin Invest Med. 2021 Oct 3;44(3):E72-79. doi: 10.25011/cim.v44i3.36707.


While the separate roles of physicians and scientists are well defined, the role of a physician scientist is broad and variable. In today’s society, physician scientists are seen as a hybrid between the two fields and they are, therefore, expected to be key to the translation of biomedical research into clinical care. This article offers a narrative review on physician scientists and endeavours to answer whether there is an ongoing need for physician scientists today. The historical role of physician scientists is discussed and compared with physician scientists of the 21st century. Fundamental differences and similarities between the separate roles of physicians and scientists are examined as well as the current state of bench to bedside research. Finally, the ability of 21st century physician scientists to impact their respective medical and scientific fields in comparison to non-physician scientists will be discussed. This paper speculates as to why numbers of physician scientists are dwindling and uses the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of rapid translational research. Ultimately, we suggest that physician scientists are important and may have the most impact on their field by working to connect bedside and bench rather than simply working separately in the bedside and bench. To do this, physician scientists may need to lead clinical research teams composed of individuals from diverse training backgrounds.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Physicians*