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Paul Knoepfler

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Time to Teach Our Doctors How to Be Stem Cell Specialists

Posted: 04/09/2013 3:04 pm

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).

Zero.

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.

2013-04-08-MDtraininginstemcells.png

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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