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Physician-Scientist Workforce (PSW) Report 2014

Physician-Scientists with a Medical Degree in the NIH-Funded Workforce

As noted in the previous section, about 8,000 of the 14,000 physician-scientists in the United States have Research Project Grants (RPG) from NIH. This section examines the patterns of RPG applications and funding, as well as the impact of NIH early career awards on the careers of these physician-scientists. Note that unless otherwise stated in the text, "MD/PhD" includes individuals who were trained in combined MD/PhD programs, as well as individuals who obtained their degrees sequentially in the U.S. or elsewhere.

Physician-Scientist Application and Award Patterns

  • Numbers of First Time RPG Applicants for MDs (2,356 in 2012) and MD/PhDs (1,714 in 2012) have been stable for 10 years, despite declining award rates (Figure 3.6). During the same period, however, there was a near doubling in the number of first time applicants for PhDs (7,785 in 2002, vs. 13,748 in 2012). The growth of new physician-scientists has therefore not kept pace with that of PhDs. Figure 3.6. Individual First-time NIH Research Project Grant Applicants, PhD, MD, and MD/PhD Degree (FY1999-2012)

Age

  • The average time to degree in MD/PhD programs is currently 8 years, and the average time from graduation to the first RPG is 13 years. For MDs, the average time from medical school graduation to the first RPG is currently 17 years.
  • The age profile of the physician-scientist workforce has increased slowly over the past decades, as seen in Figure 3.7. There was a decline in the number of individuals from the ages of 31-60, and an increase in individuals over the age of 60. Figure 3.7. Physicians in Medical Research by Age Cohort (2003-2012)

    SOURCE: Those MD-holding Physicians that indicated they were in primarily Medical Education or Medical Research from the American Medical Association (AMA) Physician Masterfile Annual Year-end Snapshots.

  • The average age of physician-scientists with NIH RPGs has slowly increased over the past decade (Figures 3.8 and 3.9). There was a decline in individuals from the ages of 31-50, and growth in grant holders over the age of 50. Figure 3.8. Individual NIH Research Project Grant Awardees, MD Degree (FY1995-2012) Figure 3.9. Individual NIH Research Project Grant Awardees, MD/PhD Degree (FY1995-2012)
  • The average age of MD RPG grant holders was 48 in 2003, and 51 in 2012; the average age for MD/PhDs with RPGs was 48 in 2003 and 52 in 2012; and for PhDs, 46 in 2003 and 48 in 2012. See Figure 3.10 for a graphic display of these findings. Figure 3.10. Average Age of NIH Research Project Grant Awardee, PhD, MD, and MD/PhD Degree (FY1999-2012)
  • In 2012, the average age of First Time RPG awards for MDs was 43.8 years, for MD/PhDs, 44.3 years, and for PhDs, 41.9 years (Figure 3.11). Figure 3.11. Average Age of First-time NIH Research Project Grant Awardees, PhD, MD, and MD/PhD Degree (FY1999-2012)

Gender

U.S. Medical Schools matriculants and applicants:

  • The percentage of female medical student matriculants peaked at 49.6 percent of U.S. medical school students in 2003 and has shown slight decreases in subsequent years.30
  • There have been small decreases in the percentage of women applicants into medical school since 2003-2004, however, the total number of women applicants increased to a high of 20,780 in 2011-2012.31

MD degrees:

  • In 1982-83, 26 percent of MD degrees in U.S. Medical Schools were awarded to women and in 2010-2011, 48.4 percent.32
  • The percentage of female MDs who are RPG grant holders has increased from 17 percent in the mid-1990s to 29 percent currently. However, for MD/PhDs, growth has been considerably slower, increasing from 17 percent in the mid-1990s to only 22 percent at the present time, reflecting a more persistent disparity in gender for this group.

MD/PhD degrees:

  • There remains a disparity in the percentage of male and female students of MD/PhD programs U.S. Medical Schools. In 2011, 39 percent of applicants, 37 percent of matriculants, and 42 percent of graduates were women. From 2001 to 2011, the percentage of female MD/PhD graduates increased from 30 percent to 42 percent.33 Figure 3.12. Percent Female NIH Research Project Grant Awardees, PhD, MD, and MD/PhD Degree (FY1999-2012)
  • Although the percentage of male and female medical school students and of instructor-level faculty have become nearly equal, the gender gap is greater with higher academic ranks4. However, the gender gap is slowly narrowing for all academic ranks, as seen in Figure 3.13. Figure 3.13. Percent Women Faculty on Tenure Track at US Medical School by Seniority (FY1999-2012)
  • The NIH RPG award rates in 2012 were not significantly different for men and women (men 22.9 percent, women 23.8 percent, p=0.115). There were also no significant differences in award rates by gender with any degree type (for MDs, 21.2 percent vs. 23 percent, p=0.1571; for MD/PhDs, 24.6 percent vs. 24.8 percent, p=0.8918; for PhDs, 21.8 percent vs. 20.9 percent, p=0.0959). However, large differences in the number of male and female applicants persist, although the gap is slowly closing (women were 26 percent of RPG applicants holding MDs and MD/PhDs in 2012, compared to 18 percent in 1999) (Figure 3.14). Figure 3.14. Individual NIH Research Project Grant Applicants and Awardees, MD and MD/PhD Degree by Gender (FY1999-2012)

Race/Ethnicity34

Figures 3.15 through 3.2035 illustrate the following findings:

  • The RPG applicant pool in 2012 included 22,635 Whites (69.5 percent of the total applicant pool), 7,403 Asians (22.7 percent), 1,469 Hispanics36 (4.5 percent), 768 African Americans (2.4 percent), and 56 Native Americans (0.17 percent).
  • The RPG awardee pool in 2012 included 5,310 Whites (73.6 percent of the total awardee pool), 1,458 Asians (20.2 percent), 261 Hispanics (3.6 percent), 120 African Americans (1.7 percent), and 10 Native Americans (0.13 percent).
  • RPG award rates for underrepresented race/ethnic minorities in 2012 were lower than that of white applicants (Whites, 23.5 percent; Asians, 19.7 percent, p<0.002; African-Americans, 15.6 percent, p<0.002; Hispanics, 17.7 percent, p<0.002; Native Americans, 17.8 percent, p=0.3232).
  • Although there has been significant growth for Asian and Hispanic awardees over the past decade, there has been less growth for African-Americans and Native Americans. The proportion of white awardees is shrinking.
  • In 2012, the PhD RPG awardee pool included 3,703 Whites (74.9 percent), 954 Asians (19.3 percent), 166 Hispanics (3.4 percent), 76 African Americans (1.5 percent), and 7 Native Americans (0.14 percent).
  • In 2012, the MD RPG awardee pool included 750 Whites (74.0 percent), 183 Asians (18.1 percent), 47 Hispanics (4.6 percent), 26 African Americans (2.6 percent), and 2 Native Americans (0.2 percent).
  • In 2012, the MD/PhD RPG awardee pool included 763 Whites (68.4 percent), 291 Asians (26.1 percent), 36 Hispanics (3.2 percent), 14 African Americans (1.3 percent), and 1 Native Americans (<0.2 percent). Figure 3.15. Individual NIH Research Project Grant Awardees, MD Degree by Race/Ethnicity, White and Asian (FY1999-2012) and Figure 3.16. Individual NIH Research Project Grant Awardees, MD Degree by Race/Ethnicity, Underrepresented Groups (FY1999-2012) Figure 3.17. Individual NIH Research Project Grant Awardees, PhD Degree by Race/Ethnicity, White and Asian (FY1999-2012) and Figure 3.18. Individual NIH Research Project Grant Awardees, PhD Degree by Race/Ethnicity, Underrepresented Groups (FY1999-2012) Figure 3.19. Individual NIH Research Project Grant Awardees, MD/PhD Degree by Race/Ethnicity, White and Asian (FY1999-2012) and Figure 3.20. Individual NIH Research Project Grant Awardees, MD/PhD Degree by Race/Ethnicity, Underrepresented Groups (FY1999-2012)

30 Association of American Medical Colleges. (2012, March). Analysis in brief: The changing gender composition of U.S. medical school applicants and matriculants.12 (1). Retrieved from https://www.aamc.org/download/277026/data/aibvol12_no1.pdf) (Association of American Medical Colleges U.S. medical school applicants and students 1982-1983 to 2011-2012, Retrieved, from https://www.aamc.org/download/153708/data/

31 AAMC (2012, March), ibid.

32 Association of American Medical Colleges. U.S. medical school applicants and students 1982-1983 to 2011-2012, Retrieved from https://www.aamc.org/download/153708/data/

33 Association of American Medical Colleges. (2012, December) Table 32: MD-PhD applicants, acceptees, matriculants, and graduates of U.S. medical schools by sex, 2001-2012. Retrieved, from https://www.aamc.org/download/321542/data/2012factstable32.pdf

34 Country of Origin was not factored into the Race/Ethnicity categorization.

35 In Figures 3.16 and 3.20, the annual number of Native American awardees was less than 10. Therefore, per NIH guidelines on privacy, the line representing this demographic group is not included on these graphs.

36 For the purposes of this workforce analysis, it was necessary to have individuals categorized into one and only one Race/Ethnicity category. Individuals who reported both a non-White race (e.g. Native American) and Hispanic ethnicity were categorized as the reported Race (e.g. Native American). Individuals who reported White race and Hispanic ethnicity were categorized as Hispanic.

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