The Critical Role of Clinician-Scientists

Trailblazer Prize finalists Drs. Daniel Bauer and Jaehyuk Choi, alongside Trailblazer Prize winner Dr. Michael Fox, speak with FNIH Chairman Dr. Steven M. Paul at the FNIH Annual Fall Board Dinner.

“I believe that bridging the gap between clinical care and research is critical to finding new treatments.”

— Michael Fox, M.D., Ph.D., winner of the FNIH 2018 Trailblazer Prize for Clinician-Scientists

Clinician-scientists fulfill an essential and unique role in medicine. They conduct research that applies basic scientific knowledge to clinical problems — ultimately harnessing discovery from the laboratory and applying it directly to patient care. Yet, the number of those embarking on careers in this vitally important field is declining.

In 2018, the FNIH launched the Trailblazer Prize for Clinician-Scientists, made possible with generous support from John I. Gallin, M.D., and Elaine K. Gallin, Ph.D., to recognize the outstanding contributions of early career clinician-scientists whose work has the potential to or has led to innovations in patient care. The Trailblazer Prize is an opportunity to shine a light on the essential medical contributions of clinician-scientists and inspire the next-generation to join the field.

After receiving more than 100 nominations, the jury selected three finalists: Daniel Bauer, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Jaehyuk Choi, M.D., Ph.D., Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University and Michael Fox, M.D., Ph.D., Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School. In October, the finalists joined the FNIH for an event on Capitol Hill to explain their research and offer insights about their profession to congressional staffers. The FNIH Annual Fall Board Dinner followed that evening, where the FNIH announced Dr. Fox as the prize winner for pioneering innovative techniques to map human brain connectivity that can be translated into new treatments for neurological diseases.

“The purpose of our lab is to translate human brain connections into new patient care,” explained Dr. Fox. “As we learn that different symptoms map to different brain circuits, we tailor our treatments to those symptoms, rather than treating all patients the same way. One of my patients had Parkinson's disease and a medication refractory tremor. Through deep brain stimulation therapy, he experienced not having the tremor for the first time in 12 years.”

Dr. Fox’s work exemplifies how clinician-scientists drive innovations for patient care. Through the Trailblazer Prize, the FNIH will continue to showcase their significant contributions that can be life-changing for patients now and in the future.