Time to Teach Our Doctors How to Be Stem Cell Specialists

04/09/2013 03:04 pm ET | Updated Jun 09, 2013

How can we make stem cell treatments safer? One way is by training doctors, and I have proposed that we establish academic fellowship training programs for doctors in stem cell-based medicine.

Doctors around the world are injecting patients with stem cells at an ever-increasing rate, but almost none of those doctors have received any training in stem cells at all. A lack of training is one of my blog series: "Eight Simple Reasons Not to Get a Dubious Stem Cell Treatment." (You can read the series here).

Would you let a radiologist do your brain surgery?

Would you pick a dermatologist to do your open-heart surgery?

I wouldn't.

So why then do so many patients who get stem cell treatments have such low expectations for the doctors that do their stem cell treatments?

I don't have the one answer, but it is a very dangerous situation.

Part of the problem, though, is that across America there is no such thing as a real, academic stem cell training program in stem cell-based medicine. Doctors can specialize in all kinds of things and receive training in very specific areas, but astonishingly not in stem cells. No university or hospital system that I know of in America offers a fellowship in stem cell-based cellular or regenerative medicine (a fancy way of saying stem cell medicine).


I want to change that.

I recently published an article in the journal Regenerative Medicine calling on universities and hospitals to start such programs. I even researched and wrote up a curriculum (see below) that they could use based on talking with many people in the field.


Patients will start expecting their doctors to have academic fellowship training in stem cells.

Doctors doing stem cell treatments will expect more of themselves and each other.

I imagine a future where a patient in a doctor's office at a stem cell clinic, pondering where to get a treatment, says, "Doctor Johnson, where did you get your training in stem cells?" And the doctor will answer proudly, "I got my fellowship training stem cell-based medicine at..." and he will include the name of a top-tier university medical center.

Let's make that future become a reality across the U.S. and the world.

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