Weisenfeld lecturer exemplifies bench-to-bedside research

May 8, 2012

Early in his career, John V. Forrester, MD, FRCSE, FRCSG, FRCOpth, FARVO, became a clinician scientist when a patient seeking help for vitreous hemorrhage volunteered to serve as a "guinea pig" for Dr. Forrester and his consultant, willing to take part in experimental treatments that might help his vision and that would also allow Dr. Forrester to investigate the question of why a vitreous hemorrhage did not resolve very well. He shared this journey as the recipient of ARVO's Mildred Weisenfeld Award, bestowed Monday night.

Fort Lauderdale, FL-Early in his career, John V. Forrester, MD, FRCSE, FRCSG, FRCOpth, FARVO, became a clinician scientist when a patient seeking help for vitreous hemorrhage volunteered to serve as a “guinea pig” for Dr. Forrester and his consultant, willing to take part in experimental treatments that might help his vision and that would also allow Dr. Forrester to investigate the question of why a vitreous hemorrhage did not resolve very well. He shared this journey as the recipient of ARVO’s Mildred Weisenfeld Award, bestowed Monday night.

After successfully treating that patient and subsequently others with what was then a novel therapy-urokinase-Dr. Forrester found that one question led to another, and his investigations led both to answers and to new lines of research.

In a career spanning more than 40 years since he earned a medical degree in 1970 from Glasgow University in Scotland, Dr. Forrester has never stopped being both clinician and scientist. These interlocking roles have led to numerous discoveries, many in the fields of uveitis and diabetes, countless publications, and recognition.

But while Dr. Forrester, who is at the University of Aberdeen, has trained and mentored many MDs and PhDs who share his interest in translational medicine, he fears that too few of today’s young professionals will take up the mantle of clinician scientists. This role, described as “the individuals who can build bridges across research’s ‘valley of death,’ ” is as essential in the 21st century as before, Dr. Forrester said, but its survival depends on overcoming a set of obstacles. These include competing career prospects, many of which are more financially rewarding, uncertainty in the face of “big science,” and difficulty obtaining research funding.

Dr. Forrester also recommended that residency training should be redesigned to include more exposure to science and research and advocated mentorship programs that would help young doctors learn about the work of clinician scientists. Conversely, he also proposed that scientists spend more time in clinics so that they can see for themselves the need for innovative diagnostic and treatment approaches.

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