Medical basic research in Germany is excellent. However, research results reach the patients too seldom. Residency for junior physicians offers too little scope for translational research alongside the clinical routine. Off-duty research results in a double strain because of which more and more young physicians are either leaving clinical research or leaving Germany as a science location. As a further consequence, true innovations are lacking in drug developments and medical products.
This is where the Clinician Scientist Program by Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin comes in. Its long-term goal is to establish a new category of positions and thus a separate career path for clinical researchers. The program offers structured further education for junior physicians, which, as a novelty in Germany, contains sufficient “protected time” for clinical research. The Berlin Chamber of Physicians recognize large portions of the clinical research time as part of the medical specialist training. In addition, the participants are provided with a cross-disciplinary curriculum, which optimally prepares them for a career as a clinician scientist.
A current 108 participants are supported in the Clinician Scientist Program, coming from all clinical disciplines. The predecessor of this measure was the “Friedrich C. Luft” Clinical Scientist Pilot Program, which was started in 2011 with eight participants and supported by funds from VolkswagenStiftung and Stiftung Charité. Now all graduate schools and clusters of excellence are participating at the Charité; further positions are provided by the Private Excellence Initiative Johanna Quandt, the Charité, and by the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH). All positions are posted centrally twice a year. The selection process comprises a shortlist drawn up on the basis of the written applications and, in the second phase, the final decision based on brief presentations by the applicants on their research projects in the context of an open colloquium. The Clinician Scientist Board is responsible for the selection of the participants. It is composed of internal and external members.
By now, the German Council of Science and Humanities (Wissenschaftsrat) as well as the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft – DFG) refer to the BIH Charité Clinician Scientist Program as a proven role model for those who intend to promote clinical research during the period of medical specialty training (see here and here – only available in German). In October 2016, the German Council of Science and Humanities even recommended that every medical department and university hospital in Germany should qualify five to eight percent of their junior doctors in the specialist training as Clinician Scientists as well, thereby following the Berlin program (see page 29 – only available in German). The Berlin Clinician Scientist program started by Stiftung Charité and VolkswagenStiftung years ago serves as role model to others now.
For further information and current calls, please go to BIH website.