Clinician-scientists are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between discovery and neurotherapeutics (the development and implementation of treatments for neurological disease). In spite of substantial opportunities for new scientific discoveries, in the neurosciences particularly, the number of physicians choosing research careers has been declining. Programs to encourage physician scientists initiated by the NIH and several not- for-profit institutions were promising, but the number of applications for Early Career Development Awards focused on clinical or patient-oriented research, such as K08 and K23, has steadily declined since 2005 (NIH Data Book: Trends in Research Career Development (K) Awards). Promising young physician-scientists experience significant obstacles as they progress in their science careers, which include extended training duration, financial challenges, uncertainty about future support, limited exposure to quality research, and lack of effective role models and mentors. Thus, there is a pressing need to encourage clinician-neuroscientists to continue in research and provide expert scientific career development during clinical residency and fellowship training. The UT Southwestern Integrated Program for the Advancement of Neuroscience Research Careers (UT SWANS) is designed to prepare future clinician-neuroscientists to translate basic science discoveries into clinically-relevant treatments by removing barriers to success. UT SWANS will protect research time during residency and fellowship training, provide exceptional mentoring and give advanced research training to residents in Neurology (adult and pediatric), Neurosurgery, Neuropathology, and Emergency Medicine who have an strong interest in research. The diverse roster of UT SWANS mentors includes well-established researchers in basic, clinical and translational research. The program will have an intergrated, multidisciplinary approach to research training and will be tailored to the participant's research educational needs, with a focus on the development of neurotherapeutics, whenever possible. This program will increase the likelihood that talented individuals develop into the future leaders in translational research and clinical neurotherapeutics research.
Advances in understanding the brain and brain diseases create new opportunities and approaches for treating neurological disorders. To fully implement these treatments, physician-scientists are needed to bridge the gap between basic science discovery and clinical practice. This proposal develops a novel research education program to identify promising clinicians with research potential, provide mentored experience in laboratory or clinical research, and create an environment which promotes successful transition to scientific independence.