Recent budget allocations by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) have aroused serious concern among researchers (see, for example, A. R. Marks J. Clin. Invest. 116, 844; 2006). The problem seems to stem from the division between those who are funded by the NIH and those who direct it. A great proportion of the former are doctors of research, whereas many of the latter are doctors of medicine. As its website shows, every director of the organization has held an MD degree. Unlike those seeking grants, only 4 out of 14 current advisory-committee members hold a PhD (see links from http://www.nih.gov/about/director/index.htm). Hence, disagreement is not surprising during a funding freeze.
This problem could, in part, be overcome by bridging the gap between medical and PhD students — a gap that is already narrowing, as noted in your News Feature “Them and us no longer” (Nature 439, 779–780; 2006). The emergence of 'bench-to-bedside' interdisciplinary research requires and promotes mutual understanding between physicians and scientists.
Yet the road ahead seems long, and many prejudices still exist. It is crucial to introduce new programmes aimed at acclimatizing medical students to the research process and PhD students to clinical practice. As a graduate student, I find this lacking in most institutions. The exception is a limited MD–PhD programme, only available to a handful of students. This concept should be expanded into an integral part of medical education, one that allows for greater understanding and interaction between graduate students and medical students.