The National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health, recently awarded the Yale School of Medicine a $6.1 million grant to develop a program aimed at fostering research involving direct interaction with human subjects.

The Yale Mentored Clinical Research Scholar Program will award research grants to fellows in clinical departments or junior faculty members. Yale is one of five institutions that received the grant this year.

Professor of Medicine and Geriatrics Sharon K. Inouye will direct the program, which began to receive funding in September.

“This award recognizes the Yale School of Medicine as a center of excellence in patient-oriented research,” Inouye said. “It presents an extraordinary career development opportunity for physician investigators.”

Program Coordinator Lupi Robinson said the program will aim to develop “a cadre of physician investigators” across the country who will be leaders in the field of patient-oriented research. The program includes a structured academic curriculum and mentored research experience.

“Developing a group of highly-trained physician investigators benefits the school by increasing our research expertise and success in obtaining grants, and ultimately by helping our patients,” Robinson said in an e-mail. “In the short term, it provides salary support for junior faculty and post-doctoral fellows.”

Physicians who are fellows in any clinical department and have completed the clinical component of their training program and junior faculty in their first one to three years may apply for the grants the program will offer. An executive committee will determine the winners based on their qualifications and experience as well as on the quality of their research proposals.

Robinson said she expects that there will be a large pool of applicants because the terms of the award are “so generous.” Fellows accepted into the program will be expected to matriculate in the medical school’s Investigative Medicine Program and commit three to five years to the pursuit of a Ph.D. The program will provide each recipient with a stipend of up to $90,000 per year and will cover research and tuition costs of up to $30,000 per year for a maximum of five years.

“The application process is competitive, and we expect that only five candidates will be chosen for July 2004 although we have a total of ten slots, because the number of actual candidates over the five year award period will depend upon the length of the individual research projects,” Robinson said in an e-mail.

The NCRR has been concerned for several years about the declining share of grant applications from physician investigators, Robinson said. Biology major Monica Modi ’06, who plans to go to medical school, said she feels comforted by the fact that the Center is providing the impetus for improvement in medical research.

“We pre-med students at Yale sincerely hope that the physician investigation group will raise the standards and quality of medical research,” Modi said. “And we can only aspire to be accepted in such a respectable training program in the future.”