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Perspective: The Effect of Contemporary Education and Training of Biomedical Scientists on Present and Future Medical Research

Costello, Leslie C. MS, PhD

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31819a7c6b
Training Biomedical Scientists
Abstract

During the past 50 years, major changes have occurred in the education and training of successive generations of young aspiring biomedical scientists. Have today's researchers benefited from the dramatically different education and training programs and requirements? Are today's scientists equal to, not as well trained as, or better trained than those of earlier generations? There is no statistical information to arrive at a definitive answer to this question. One can only relate experiences of the past in contrast to experiences of the present. The author argues that contemporary biomedical graduate and postgraduate programs do not produce “scientists,” who incorporate their ability to conduct research with an understanding and knowledge of the context of their research, and who can apply their research to the functional relationships and organization of the hierarchy of living systems. Rather, contemporary programs produce highly specialized “researchers” and “supertechnologists” with limited knowledge and capabilities beyond the specialization. The author argues that the direction of biomedical research is overly dominated by the pursuit of narrowly focused, highly specialized molecular biology/molecular technology with little understanding and integration with organ systems and cellular function principles and relationships. The direction and funding of biomedical research is compromised by the narrow, myopic, highly specialized contemporary biomedical graduate training programs. This article is intended to expose these issues and to stimulate a serious discussion and assessment of contemporary graduate training as it relates to the biomedical research and issues of today and of the future.

Author Information

Dr. Costello is professor of physiology and endocrinology, Division of Oncology/Dental School and The Greenebaum Cancer Center, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Costello, Division of Oncology, Dental School, University of Maryland, 650 West Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201; telephone: (410) 706-7618; e-mail: (lcostello@umaryland.edu).

A Commentary on this article appears on page 421.

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges