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Launching a career as a physician-scientist
  1. Julio A Lamprea-Montealegre1,
  2. Pradeep Natarajan2
  1. 1 Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA
  2. 2 Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Julio A Lamprea-Montealegre, Cardiology, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA; Julio.LampreaMontealegre{at}

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For over 100 years, physician-scientists have been at the forefront of major biomedical breakthroughs that have directly impacted clinical care.1 At its core, this career provides the opportunity to deliver clinical care while simultaneously advancing biomedicine through research. This path affords clinicians the creative freedom to solve important health problems. From a quality-of-life perspective, it can mean having more flexibility and control over your time, enhancing work-life balance. However, this track will also involve longer years of training, periods of financial uncertainty, and varying levels of stress associated with publishing and securing research grants.

Here we attempt to highlight the main issues we have encountered as cardiovascular physician-scientists. Our perspectives are those of an early career physician-scientist (JLM) supported by a mentored career development award, and an established physician-scientist (PN) with multiple independent research grants. Because we both work in the USA, our perspectives may not be generalisable.

The career pathway

The path towards a physician-scientist career generally starts early.2 For JLM, this started in medical school by joining the clinical epidemiology department at his home university, prompting him to pursue further training in epidemiology and public health. For PN, research pursuits in atherosclerosis and lipoprotein metabolism started as an undergraduate. With advances in human genetics and related methods, he pursued additional training to apply these data types and methods towards understanding the aforementioned conditions.

With more training comes additional exposure to new ideas, mentors, and research groups and projects. Early participation in publications is critical to start a career in research. At this point, it may become evident that a research career is not what you hoped for. For us, it sparked a yearning to explore new ideas and to make change through research. This calling has kept us fulfilled despite the hurdles we’ve faced on our journeys.


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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the drafting of the manuscript.

  • Funding JLM is supported by NHLBI grant 1K99HL157721-01A1.

  • Competing interests JLM reports receiving research support from Bayer pharmaceuticals unrelated to the present work. PN reports investigator-initiated grants from Amgen, Apple, AstraZeneca, Boston Scientific, and Novartis, personal fees from Apple, AstraZeneca, Blackstone Life Sciences, Foresite Labs, Novartis, Roche/Genentech, and TenSixteen Bio, is a scientific advisory board member of Esperion Therapeutics, geneXwell, and TenSixteen Bio, shareholder of geneXwell and TenSixteen Bio, and spousal employment at Vertex, all unrelated to the present work.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.