Long-term Effects from Early Exposure to Research: Evidence from the NIH "Yellow Berets''
Can a relatively short but intense exposure to frontier research alter the career trajectories of potential innovators? To answer this question, we study the careers and productivity of 3,075 medical school graduates who applied to the Associate Training Programs (ATP) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during the turbulent period of the Vietnam War, 1965- 1975. Carefully selecting on observables, we compare physicians who attended the program to those who passed a first admission screen but were ultimately not selected. We find that program participants were twice as likely to choose a research-focused position after training, and considerably less likely to switch to purely clinical endeavors as their careers unfolded. Over the life cycle, NIH trainees also garnered publications, citations, and grant funding at a much higher rate than synthetic controls, and went on to mentor more trainees who them- selves became successful researchers. The direction of their research efforts was durably imprinted by their training experience. In particular, NIH trainees appear to have acquired a distinct “translational” style of biomedical research which became an implicit training model for physician-scientists as ATP alumni came to occupy the commanding heights of academic medicine throughout the United States.
This project was supported by the National Institute on Aging (grant number R24-AG048059) to the National Bureau of Economic Research. We thank Dr. Michael Gottesman, Dr. Michael Lauer, and Dr. Kay Lund for their steadfast support and encouragement. We are indebted to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Michael Gottesman, Dr. Richard G. Wyatt, and Dr. John Gallin for reflecting on their experiences in the ATP and encouraging us to investigate the impact of the NIH Intramural Program during the Vietnam War. We would also like to thank Daniel Boehlert, Andrew Breazeale, Delaney Cruickshank, Daphne Hines, Maria Isabel Larenas, Kyle Myers, Ryan Pfirrmann-Powell, Lindsey Raymond, and Ying Zeng for their diligent efforts in sorting, entering, matching, and curating the data. Lastly, this project would not be feasible without the help of Barbara Harkins and Christopher Wanjek from the NIH Office of History. We also thank Scott Stern as well as seminar audiences at Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, and Northwestern for constructive feedback. Any opinions (and all errors) are solely those of the authors and do not represent any official position of the U.S. Census Bureau or NBER.
- Individuals who participated in the NIH’s Associate Training Program entered research, published, and earned grant funding at higher...
Pierre Azoulay & Wesley H. Greenblatt & Misty L. Heggeness, 2021. "Long-term effects from early exposure to research: Evidence from the NIH “Yellow Berets”," Research Policy, vol 50(9). citation courtesy of