Offer more fellowships in conjunction with MS funding proposals;
Create partnerships between industry and government to support MS centers patterned after a Switzerland-based center for neuroscience;
Offer a postdoctoral financial package that includes postdoctoral training as well as a career transition award that carries over to a junior faculty position.
The final step (above) is designed to ease the often difficult transition from fellowships to faculty position. The concept of combining postdoctoral training with a career transition award is a new approach being funded and implemented in a variety of ways by industry, professional organizations, foundations, NIH institutes, and the Medical Research Council of Canada, according to several participants.
Dr. Toby Behar of NINDS remarked that the concept is “probably one of the most exciting proposals I have heard ... because I think it would really work in attracting the best and the brightest and especially for the issue of the physician-clinician in training new clinician researchers.” Another advantage is that it offers stable funding for the recipient and enhances his or her attractiveness to the institution offering the faculty position.
During the previous day's presentation, Dr. Stephen Hauser drew special attention to the importance of attracting young physicians to MS research. “Not only is there a national plight vis-a-vis physician scientists, but in MS we are underrepresented in attracting the best minds ... the physician scientist is the person who is connecting and sustaining the connections between the bedside and the science, be it immunology, health sciences, or health services research, ...”
Hauser described a program at his institution that offers medical residents five years of funding for research together with core curricula and close mentoring. He stressed that young people are drawn to a field if they perceive the problem to be soluble and the funding to be stable.
Dr. Audrey Penn of NINDS described some new NIH initiatives to recruit physicians into clinical research and expressed the desire “to partner with the National MS Society on getting people started.”
Dr. Johnston described a successful recruitment program for clinician-scientists that involves a partnership between the academic pediatric community and the NIH, and that might be emulated by the MS research community. The academic pediatric societies, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and March of Dimes, formed a consortium that included the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and created a program in which academic departments identify a promising resident and propose that they apply to the program. The program provides a 3-year fellowship at a good stipend that the fellow can take to any basic science laboratory in the United States. The fellow has the assurance that he or she can return to the sponsoring department at the end of the fellowship, but he or she is not required to, and that puts the onus on the sponsoring department to make an attractive offer, an offer which is enhanced by the provision of start-up faculty funds at the sponsoring department. The program has been very successful in encouraging