Changing demographics of medical researchers doing kidney research in the United States


Strong points

  • In the United States, the workforce of medical scientists performing kidney research is increasingly made up of women and international medical graduates.
  • However, this workforce is older, declining in relative numbers, and is less heavily focused on basic science than clinical science.

Washington, DC (July 14, 2021) – America’s medical scientists are making huge contributions to biomedical research. New Research Published in CJASN Shows Growing Representation of Women and International Graduates in the Physician-Scientist Workforce in Renal Research; however, this workforce is shrinking in relative numbers, aging, and less heavily focused on basic scientific research.

The research was based on public data obtained from the Internet. A team led by Susan M. Wall, MD (Emory University School of Medicine) extracted records from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to explore demographic shifts in early career and established principal investigators, physicians and non-physicians doing research. NIH-focused kidney research funded between 1990 and 2020.

The researchers found that lead researchers focused on the kidneys are getting older, especially among doctors. In addition, the relative representation of physicians among early career investigators and established principal investigators is declining, particularly among those engaged in basic scientific research. In contrast, the number and relative representation of non-medical scientists is increasing. There is also a greater representation of women and international graduates among medical and non-medical kidney researchers; however, female physician scientists are increasingly likely to do clinical rather than basic research.

“Physician-researchers are in a unique position to formulate testable hypotheses that are clinically relevant. Research training also provides a useful perspective when evaluating human disease in the clinic, ”said Dr. Wall.


Study co-authors include Delaney C. Abood, Spencer A. King, and Douglas C. Eaton.

Disclosures: DC Eaton reports receiving honoraria from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Pittsburgh; patents and inventions with the monograph “Vander’s Renal Physiology” McGraw Hill Publishing; and as a scientific advisor or member of the editorial boards of the American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology and APSselect. SM Wall declares that he owns shares in Abbott, Becton Dickinson, Johnson and Johnson, Merck, Roche and Thermo Fisher; SM Wall has no stock options. SM Wall claims to have been a representative of the American Physiological Society on the FASEB Finance Committee.

The article, entitled “Changing Demographics of NIDDK-Funded Physician-Scientists Doing Kidney Research”, will appear online at http: // / on July 14, 2021, doi: 10.2215 / CJN.02440221.

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