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KAIST to launch science-centric medical school

Posted September. 13, 2023 08:19,   

Updated September. 13, 2023 08:19


KAIST is now embarking on a dedicated effort to foster physician-scientists, merging medical expertise with engineering, such as AI technology. On Tuesday, KAIST revealed its plans to establish a specialized medical school dedicated to solving healthcare challenges by applying engineering knowledge.

The school's focus is on nurturing physician-scientists who prioritize scientific research over direct clinical practice. An illustrative example of such physician-scientists is Dr. Ugur Sahin and his wife, Ozlem Tureci, who co-developed COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer in 2020 during the pandemic's peak.

KAIST will introduce an eight-year program, consisting of a mandatory four-year master's course, which covers essential clinical and engineering knowledge, followed by a four-year doctoral program emphasizing advanced scientific and engineering subjects. In Korea, the percentage of physicians pursuing science-focused doctorates is currently less than 1%, lagging significantly behind other industrialized nations.

Medical experts argue that prioritizing efforts to enhance healthcare and the medical environment should precede substantial funding for nurturing physician-scientists. In reality, the availability of physician-scientists depends on having an adequate number of physicians initially. A spokesperson for the Korean Medical Association suggests that KAIST should focus on supporting policies that encourage practicing doctors already in the field to pursue careers as physician-scientists.