Educating Physician-Neuroscientists: The R25 at UCSF

Investigator: Stephen L. Hauser, MD
Sponsor: NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Location(s): United States


Increasing life expectancy in the United States will continue to add to the societal burden of neurologic disease for which current treatments and prevention strategies are ineffective. By supporting early translational research experiences for young physician-scientists, the R25 research education and research program continues to be an important mechanism for priming the pipeline for physician-neuroscientists who will make the important translational research discoveries that improve the future prevention and treatment of nervous system diseases. The clinical neuroscience community at UCSF is positioned to expand the outstanding environment for the R25 program by virtue of our commitment to training physician-scientists, demonstrated track record of success, new facilities, and the research accomplishments of our faculty.

Educating Physician-Neuroscientists: The Department of Neurology at UCSF has been the institutional sponsor for the R25 program at UCSF over the past 5 years and is the home department for this application renewal. Both neurology and neuropathology have supported outstanding research training candidates through this program. We are pleased that the Department of Neurosurgery has committed to becoming an active participant in the program and is well-represented in this renewal application. The Department of Neurology has an excellent record for attracting outstanding medical students destined for neurology. Out of 250 applications from US medical graduates for 10 adult neurology positions in 2014, we were fortunate to match all 10 positions to the top eleven applicants on our rank list. The department aspires to train the next generation of national neurology leaders and our neurology residency graduates transition in high numbers to long term academic careers as laboratory investigators, clinical science (patient- based) investigators, and university-based clinician teachers. The opening of the Neurology Research building at the Mission Bay campus (see facilities below) has resulted in greatly expanded opportunities for research trainees and collaboration between laboratory research programs in a common space and with nearby research programs (e.g.-Gladstone Institute). The intellectual environment is exciting for trainees. Monthly multidisciplinary conferences (e.g.-Brain Club) host speakers who discuss translational science issues that attract both clinicians and bench scientists. These conferences are followed by an opportunity to informally mix with colleagues who have diverse clinical and scientific interests. The R25 has been a crucial linchpin for the development of research skills by our talented young physician-scientists in neurology and neuropathology at UCSF. In the era of sequestration, which has challenged the stability of mid-career and senior neuroscientists, the R25 has become an even more important stable NIH program for ensuring that our most talented early career neuroscientists are well-supported. Our early track record among participants who have completed the program is encouraging. Of four trainees who have completed the program at UCSF, all continue to be engaged in laboratory research. One has received K-award funding, one has applied for K-award funding and received a very favorable score, and the other two plans to apply for K-award funding in the next year. Two have received funding from sources other than NIH (CIRM, Giannini Foundation, and Alzheimer's Disease Research Center Pilot Grant). One is an author on a peer-reviewed papers related to the R25 research program and another has a manuscript under review. Two trainees (one neuropathology and one neurology) had a change of heart and moved to careers in the pharmaceutical industry. While the program is still early in evolution, it is clear that UCS can provide the training time and research environment to foster early research career development for physician-scientists.