Introduction for a New Column Manuscript Category for Annals of Translational Medicine – “Changemakers in Patient-Oriented Translational Clinical Investigation”

Posted On 2018-04-17 18:01:47

Richard D. Sontheimer, MD
Professor of Dermatology,
University of Utah School of Medicine,
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA

In 2005, David G. Nathan, M.D. introduced the designation “patient-oriented translational clinical investigators (POTCIs)” in referring to practicing physicians who employ reductionist scientific tools to better understand the pathophysiologic underpinnings and treatment of the clinical disorders from which their patients suffer (1).

In 1976, I was fortunate to have entered the field of modern clinical immunology in the USA at the beginning of its “golden age.” This was also the advent of the golden age for USA POTCIs as federal research funding was abundant and veritably begging to be spent on even the most naïve of medical hypotheses.

During my four-decade POTCI career in dermatology and rheumatology, I have witnessed a dramatic shift in the fate of USA POTCIs within my areas of clinical interest (2), a phenomenon which Dr. Nathan has described so eloquently for USA medicine in general (1). It has now become extremely challenging for USA POTCI’s to compete for research funding to support their clinical research interests.

Much was learned and applied during the golden age of American patient-oriented translational clinical investigation. And, much of that success was fueled by the mutually-profitable mentoring relationships which facilitated that progress. The currency of scientific research is publication. While the Mentor and Protegé play different roles in the mentoring relationship, they are both rewarded by the visibility of their publications. While the value of mutually-profitable mentoring relationships is implicit in successful medical research endeavors, it is rarely an explicit component of medical publications.

This new column concept was developed to celebrate the career contributions of “changemaker” POTCIs in the various clinical disciplines of medicine while highlighting the mentoring and teamwork relationships that helped catalyzed those successes.

Erin McIlroy has outlined the characteristics of “changemakers” (

  • Changemakers are those who are standing on the metaphorical mountain peak, looking at and understanding the overall landscape...where we are and where we are going.
  • Changemakers see a problem and are able to shape it into a vision and then create an action-oriented path forward.
  • Changemakers ask the right questions, connect the dots, form the relationships, understand the impacts of making a change and the consequences of not.
  • Changemakers have an understanding of what happens in the body and brain as people go through change; what motivates people, the different approaches, processes and personalities to learning, communicating and driving change.
  • Changemakers study human dynamics and behavior, systems theory, neuroscience, psychology, consciousness, communications and other areas of focus that teach us what we do and why, as individuals and communities.
  • Changemakers are comfortable out of the comfort zone and understand the value and the need to proactively go to those places.
  • Changemakers are driven by partnering with others, getting creative and developing solutions.
  • Changemakers are value driven, mission driven and thrive on meaningful action for purpose, on purpose.“
  • The Annals of Translational Medicine now welcomes the submission of such biographical manuscripts from all medical disciplines. The reader is referred to the Authors Instructions for this new category of publication for more information on the format and scope of such manuscripts

    1. Nathan DG. The several Cs of translational clinical research. J Clin Invest. 2005;115(4):795-7.
    2. Sontheimer RD, Werth VP. Whither the patient oriented researcher? J Am Acad Dermatol. 1998;39(1):109-13.