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Nation’s research funding squeeze imperils patient care, say top medical school deans

Constraints in federal funding, compounded by declining clinical revenue, jeopardize more than the nation’s research enterprise.

These twin pressures have created a “hostile working environment” that erodes time to conduct research, “discourages innovative high-risk science” and threatens to drive established and early-career scientists out of the field. And this, in turn, undermines patient care, proclaimed deans of leading academic medical centers from across the U.S. The group commentary was published in Science Translational Medicine.

“For university medical centers to continue to make the enormous strides in advancing research and helping people prevent and combat disease, the nation needs to invest in research,” said co-author, Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, dean of the University of Utah’s School of Medicine, senior vice president of health sciences, and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. “As it stands already, university medical centers subsidize federally funded research. Moreover, universities have increasing administrative and bureaucratic burdens, and our clinical reimbursements, which have been used to help support research and teaching, are diminishing.”

In it, the deans acknowledge the work of policy leaders who are looking for ways to streamline discovery and development of new therapies and medical devices through mechanisms like the 21st Century Cure Act now before Congress. They call for predictable and sustainable funding indexed to inflation, which they say is needed to strategically plan and adequately manage expenses.

“Due to extraordinary advances in the biomedical sciences, the medical research community has never been in a better position to advance the health of our patients,” said co-author Robert J. Alpern, M.D., dean of the Yale School of Medicine. “Academic medical centers have invested extensively in research, in partnership with funding agencies such as the NIH.  However diminished federal financing of research is preventing us from accomplishing the research and is creating an environment that will discourage the next generation from pursuing careers in biomedical research.”

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