Research to knowledge: promoting the training of physician-scientists in the biology of pregnancy

Published:October 06, 2017DOI:
      Common disorders of pregnancy, such as preeclampsia, preterm birth, and fetal growth abnormalities, continue to challenge perinatal biologists seeking insights into disease pathogenesis that will result in better diagnosis, therapy, and disease prevention. These challenges have recently been intensified with discoveries that associate gestational diseases with long-term maternal and neonatal outcomes. Whereas modern high-throughput investigative tools enable scientists and clinicians to noninvasively probe the maternal-fetal genome, epigenome, and other analytes, their implications for clinical medicine remain uncertain. Bridging these knowledge gaps depends on strengthening the existing pool of scientists with expertise in basic, translational, and clinical tools to address pertinent questions in the biology of pregnancy. Although PhD researchers are critical in this quest, physician-scientists would facilitate the inquiry by bringing together clinical challenges and investigative tools, promoting a culture of intellectual curiosity among clinical providers, and helping transform discoveries into relevant knowledge and clinical solutions. Uncertainties related to future administration of health care, federal support for research, attrition of physician-scientists, and an inadequate supply of new scholars may jeopardize our ability to address these challenges. New initiatives are necessary to attract current scholars and future generations of researchers seeking expertise in the scientific method and to support them, through mentorship and guidance, in pursuing a career that combines scientific investigation with clinical medicine. These efforts will promote breadth and depth of inquiry into the biology of pregnancy and enhance the pace of translation of scientific discoveries into better medicine and disease prevention.
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