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Advancing Nuclear Medicine through Innovation
clinical nuclear medicine), a substantial shortage of qualified technologists continues to persist. This shortage has been further exacerbated by an increasing reliance on small-animal radiotracer imaging in drug discovery and research in academic medical centers and in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. Industry representatives informed the committee that the number of small-animal imaging facilities in their research has dramatically increased within the past several years without a commensurate increase in the number of trained or qualified individuals. It appears that only a few clinically trained nuclear medicine technologists participate in this area of research activity, likely due to lower financial rewards. Most small-animal imaging facilities therefore are staffed by research assistants, radiopharmacists, physicists, or biomedical engineers.
From the testimony presented as well as the committee’s own observations and experience, the following are considered to be impediments to the realization of an expanded work-force.
Shortage of Nuclear Medicine Personnel. There are shortages of both clinical and research personnel in all nuclear medicine disciplines (chemists, radiopharmacists, physicists, engineers, clinician-scientists, and technologists) with an impending “generation gap” of leadership in the field. Training, particularly of radiopharmaceutical chemists, has not kept up with current demands in universities, medical institutions, and industry, a problem that is exacerbated by a critical shortage of university faculty in nuclear chemistry and radiochemistry (NRC 2007). Nuclear medicine research requires a multidisciplinary team consisting of individuals with extremely varied education and training. Only by training an adequate number of individuals in these various disciplines will nuclear medicine and molecular imaging/therapy reach its potential. There is a pressing need for additional training programs with the proper infrastructure (including a culture of interdisciplinary science), appropriate faculty, and more doctoral students and postdoctoral fellowship opportunities.
Acute Shortage of Chemists. The recruitment of new chemists into the field of nuclear medicine is a significant and continual challenge. Such recruitment has been difficult because many of the chemists working in the nuclear medicine area do not have academic appointments in chemistry departments and therefore do not have access to chemistry graduate students. Thus, it is essential to reach out to chemistry students at the undergraduate and graduate student levels to fill the pipeline and avoid an impending generation gap in leadership in radiopharmaceutical chemistry. Furthermore, with the current decline in the number of U.S. students going into chemistry,