We can’t let the Brain Gain go down the Drain

We are currently recruiting to bring new faculty physicians to the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, faculty who will help us care for our patients, teach, and conduct research. The faculty candidates we have had visit the University of Iowa have been outstanding, and we look forward to having a number of them join us this summer.

During this process, I have been struck by the number of superb applicants who began their medical careers in many other countries around the world, completed their medical training at top-notch programs in the United States, and now want to join our faculty so they can practice medicine, teach and do research in the United States (indeed, in Iowa). Uniformly, these individuals were at the top of their class in school, had the drive to come to the United States to pursue opportunities they did not have in their native country, and have been highly successful in their new home.  This represents a true “brain gain” for us.

Unfortunately, there are signs that this “brain gain” could turn into a “brain drain.” Historically, the United States has been the world leader in higher education and research. This has driven our economy forward, and helped attract the best and brightest to our shores.

Yet, in the past few years, US support for innovation has been flat or even dropped and other countries are starting to take up the slack (see an excellent short video on the innovation deficit at http://www.innovationdeficit.org).

The US is still, without doubt, the world leader in biomedical research – a fact that is confirmed by the outstanding pool of physicians from around the world who would like to join our team. In Iowa, ongoing success will be dependent on our ability to provide a congenial and collaborative culture, and the resources and infrastructure needed so our faculty and staff, including those born in the US and those who began their careers elsewhere, can work together toward our shared mission of reducing the burden of cancer.

Providing these tools and environment will have a positive impact on our ability to care for our patients, our ability to conduct research, and our economy. It will also reduce the worldwide burden of cancer as discoveries made by our team are disseminated beyond our shores. We need to continue to emphasize the importance of investing in innovation through education and research. That way, we can prevent the brain gain from becoming a brain drain.