Damon Runyon Physician-Scientist Training Award

Publish Date: Aug 09, 2016

Deadline: Dec 01, 2016

Overview: Program Description

Physician-scientists who are both clinically trained and expert researchers are essential to the successful translation of scientific discovery into more effective patient therapies. They have the unique capacity to blend their insights from treating patients and working in the laboratory in a way that enables and accelerates medical advances. However, the pipeline of physician-scientists is dwindling. The decline in this vital cadre of cancer researchers is occurring at a time when cancer research holds the greatest promise of improving survival and quality of life among cancer patients. A growing shortage of physician-scientists means that major laboratory research discoveries will progress to patient application ever more slowly. If the shortage continues unabated, some may not reach patient application at all, thus presenting a crisis in cancer research.

There are two major obstacles to recruiting more physicians into research careers:

Financial: By the time physicians have completed medical school and their clinical training, they are in their late 20’s or early 30’s. They are buying homes and starting families. Many also finish medical school with significant educational debt (averaging >$150,000). If they go into private practice, they can immediately begin earning several hundred thousand dollars a year. If they choose research careers, they will earn considerably less, more in the range of $70,000-$100,000. Therefore, many physicians who are interested in research feel they cannot afford that career.

Opportunity: Unless a physician is enrolled in a joint MD/PhD program upon entering medical school, it is very difficult to obtain the extensive research training necessary to perform cutting-edge cancer research after medical school. Physicians who decide later in medical school or during their clinical fellowship that they are drawn to research (“late bloomers”) find themselves at a disadvantage, because they lack sufficient research experience to be competitive with MD/PhD scientists for existing funding opportunities.

In an effort to confront the crisis arising from a growing dearth of physician-scientists, Damon Runyon wishes to encourage more physicians to pursue research careers. To do so, the Foundation is establishing a pilot program designed to recruit outstanding U.S. Specialty Board-eligible physicians into cancer research careers by providing them with the opportunity for a protected research training experience under the mentorship of a highly qualified and gifted mentor after they have completed all of their clinical training. The goals are to a) transform these individuals into the highest quality physician-scientists, capable of conducting research that has the potential to transform the diagnosis, treatment and/or prevention of cancer and b) to eliminate the financial disincentive to entering this career path.

This award will provide a funding source that will enable these individuals to pursue research intensively (at least 80% effort) for up to four years, while, if they wish to maintain their clinical skills, continuing to be clinically active (no more than 20% effort). With the recognition that very few other funding sources (if any) exist to support these developing physician-scientists, this award is structured to provide recipients with significant salary support and necessary research expenses, with the expectation that their institutions will provide an environment and additional support (such as benefits and institutional overhead) to ensure their success. In addition, the Foundation will retire up to $100,000 of any medical school debt still owed by an award recipient.

This is a pilot program, which will award up to 3 awards per year initially. The future size of the program will be judged based upon its progress, success, and the amount of available funding.


The Physician-Scientist Training Award Committee will review applications and select awardees for approval by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation’s Board of Directors. The primary criteria used to evaluate applicants are:

The quality of the applicant, his/her commitment to pursuing a research career and potential to excel in cancer research.
The capacity of the Mentor to provide a robust training experience that will accelerate the development of the applicant’s scientific skills and prepare him/her to independently conduct high quality, innovative cancer-related research. The Mentor must have generated a proven track record in the successful training of other MDs in research careers.
The quality of a formal research proposal written by the applicant in a process that is overseen by her/his mentor (importance of the problem, originality and feasibility of the proposed approach, appropriateness of technical aspects of the research plan, and clarity of presentation).
The commitment of the institution to the development and training of future physician-scientists, including providing the necessary protected time for research.
The importance of the proposed research to the understanding of cancer and/or prevention, diagnosis or treatment of cancer.


The award will be for a period of four years. Funding will be allocated to the awardee’s institution each year for the support of the scientist. Funds are to be used for stipend and/or research expenses. No part of this grant can be used for indirect costs or institutional overhead.

Year 1 - $100,000
Year 2 - $110,000
Year 3 - $120,000
Year 4 - $130,000
(Total $460,000)


The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation will retire up to $100,000 of any qualifying medical school debt still owed by the awardee. Payment will be 50% of the outstanding debt during the award period and 50% upon completion of the program, if the awardee demonstrates a commitment and intent to continue a career as a physician-scientist. Note: qualified candidates must first apply to the NIH Loan Repayment Program in order to be eligible for loan repayment from Damon Runyon.


Awardees may receive funding from other sources to support their research. However, no other physician-scientist career development award from a private source or federal government (e.g., K08 or K23) may be held concurrently with this award.


Physician-scientist applicants (MDs only) must have completed their residencies and clinical training, be U.S. Specialty Board eligible prior to the award start date, and be able to devote at least 80% of their time and effort to Damon Runyon-supported research. MD/PhDs are not eligible to apply.

The candidate may not have had more than three years of postdoctoral laboratory research experience.

Applicants may apply at any time prior to their initial assistant professorship appointment (or equivalent). Postdoctoral fellows, clinical fellows, and clinical instructors are eligible to apply. If the Awardee transitions to an assistant professorship appointment (or equivalent) during the award term, he/she must terminate the award.

Candidates holding or awarded NIH K awards at the time of application are not eligible to apply. (Candidates holding institutional K12 awards may apply, but must return their K12 funding to the US Government/NIH if they are awarded a Damon Runyon Physician-Scientist Training Award.)

Candidates must apply with a Mentor. The Mentor’s role is to foster the development of the applicant’s knowledge, technical and analytical skills, and capacity for scientific inquiry in the field of basic or translational research chosen by the candidate and in which the Mentor is an outstanding figure. The Mentor will also serve as an advocate for the applicant at departmental, institutional, and other relevant professional levels.

Only one fellowship application will be accepted from a Mentor per review session; there is no limit, however, to the number of applications from an institution.
No more than two awardees will be funded to work with the same Mentor at any given time.
Eligible candidates may apply up to two times.


A letter endorsed by both the Dean or Center Director, and the Head/Chair of the Department, should (1) confirm the applicant’s and Mentor’s academic appointments, (2) state the institution’s commitment to support the applicant’s research efforts, the nature of the support that will be provided, and guarantee a minimum of 80% protected time for the applicant’s research to fulfill the terms of the award. The Foundation will monitor the awardee’s protected time during the course of the award to ensure that this commitment is being met.

Terms of the Award

All awards are made to the sponsoring institution for support of the designated awardee. An award does not constitute an employer-employee relationship between the Foundation and the recipient.

Physician-scientists must devote their principal time and effort (at least 80 percent) to Damon Runyon-supported research activities.

The Damon Runyon Foundation will allow up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for birth/adoptive parents consistent with their institution’s policy. The Foundation must be notified in advance of the leave.

If the Awardee transitions to an assistant professorship appointment (or equivalent) during the award term, he/she must terminate the award.

Should the Awardee and/or Mentor wish to discontinue the project, leave the designated institution or modify any aspect of the award, he or she must seek approval from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation in advance. Failure to comply with this requirement may jeopardize any future awards to the institution and/or Mentor by the Foundation.

Key Application Dates

Application Deadline: December 1, 2016
Review Panel Meeting: March 1, 2017
Finalists Interview: Spring 2016
Funding Begins July 1, 2017


All application materials should be submitted to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation for arrival at our offices on or before the December 1 deadline. Along with the original application (hard copy), applicants must submit a USB flash drive of all the required materials. Do not staple any part of the application. Please see application submission instructions below for detailed directives.

ALL NEEDED FORMS CAN BE FOUND IN THE "Further official information" link below 

The complete application should be assembled in the following order:

1. Electronically submit the Physician-Scientist Training Pre-Application Form.

2. Cover Sheets
Save the cover sheet onto the USB flash drive* (no scanned copies of the cover sheet). Applicants must also submit a hard copy of the cover sheet with all required signatures. These signatures can be either ink or electronic, or a mix of the two.

*Electronic signatures are acceptable but not required for the USB copy

3. At-a-Glance Form
Complete all sections of the provided form.​

4. A letter of Commitment From Institution/Department
A letter endorsed by both the Dean or Center Director and the Head/Chair of the Department should (1) confirm the applicant’s and Mentor’s academic appointments, and (2) state the institution’s commitment to support the applicant’s research efforts, the nature of the support that will be provided, and guarantee a minimum of 80% protected time for the applicant’s research to fulfill the terms of the award.

The Foundation will monitor the awardee’s protected time during the course of the award to ensure that this commitment is being met.

5. Applicant's Letter
This should outline the applicant’s long-term vision and goals in the field of clinical or translational cancer investigation and their future commitment to clinical/translational research.

6. Applicant’s Curriculum Vitae
This should include education and training information, research and professional experience, a statement of board eligibility and a bibliography of the candidate. In the bibliography, (1) the candidate’s name must be highlighted for each entry, (2) original, peer-reviewed research articles must be listed separately and first, (3) and next list review articles, chapters, editorials, etc. (do not include presentations, abstracts, “in preparation” or “under review” articles).

7. Applicant’s Accomplishments
The applicant should list and describe his/her three most important professional accomplishments.

8. Other Sources of Funding
A list of all current and pending funding sources. Include the specific aims of each grant, the total amount of each grant, as well as the amount received each year, and the degree of overlap with the applicant’s proposal. (Please note: Scientific or budgetary overlap with other funded projects is not allowed.)

9. Mentor’s Letter of Support
The Mentor should (1) evaluate the applicant’s qualifications for the proposed research project, (2) assess his/her potential for successful independent translational research. The Mentor must also describe his/her track record of mentorship with a list of trainees (indicating MDs vs MD/PhDs vs PhDs). If there are two Mentors, each Mentor must submit a Letter of Support and track record of mentorship. Please note: Only one application will be accepted from a Mentor (Co-Mentor) per review session.

10. Mentor’s Biographical Sketch
This should include (1) a biographical sketch, (2) a bibliography of recent publications (not to exceed two pages) and (3) a list of current and pending funding.
If there are two Mentors, each Mentor must provide a biographical sketch.

11. Research Proposals
The research proposal should be in two parts as follows:

A. Mentor’s Proposal for Training
(In addition to Mentor’s Letter)
This should be no longer than three pages* of single spaced, 12-point type and include (1) a plan for how the Mentor will ensure the development of the candidate into a successful physician-scientist, (2) a statement of the number of hours he/she will commit to the awardee’s training each week and (3) a description of any formal courses and training programs developed and offered by the sponsoring institution for the training of physician-scientists that would be included in the applicant’s curriculum.

*If there are two mentors, provide only one proposal for training, no longer than four pages.

B. Applicant’s Research Proposal
The research proposal, including figures, tables and legends, is limited to four pages of single spaced, 12-point type and should outline concisely (1) the aim(s) of the proposed research project(s), (2) the significance of the research goals, (3) the plan of research proposed and the experimental designs, strategies and methods to be used in the conduct of the research. A list of references is not included in the 4-page limit. Where applicable include, (4) biostatistical methods used for design and analysis. If any part of the research proposal falls outside of your or your mentor’s research expertise, (5) please explain and identify the expert consultant who will guide you.

12. Human Subjects, Radiation Safety, Environmental Health Issues Statement, and IRB Approval
A written statement testifying that adequate safety precautions will apply for projects that involve any biohazards (e.g., recombinant DNA, chemical carcinogens, etc.) and that the research project has been (or will be) approved by the appropriate Institutional Review Board (IRB), Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and/or Biohazards Committee. Do not include protocols.

13. Summary of Research Form
Fill in form provided. (Not to exceed one page—no attachments.)

14. Collaboration Letters
Up to three collaboration letters (NOT REFERENCE LETTERS)

15. Applicant’s Publications
Up to three publications from the applicant. (No hard copies. PDF format on the required USB only.)

16. Merged Application
Include a merged PDF of all documents on the USB.

Letters of Recommendation

Two letters of recommendation from qualified individuals best able to assess the applicant and their potential for conducting meaningful translational cancer research should be sent by email or faxed directly to the Foundation. The quality and depth of these letters will be pivotal in deciding the candidate’s suitability. (Recommended sources: residency program and/or fellowship training period.)

Referees must submit their letters on their institution’s letterhead by email (training@damonrunyon.org) OR fax (917.591.4780) on or before the application deadline (December 1). Do not follow-up with a hard copy.

For referees who are writing letters on behalf of more than one candidate, please submit each letter separately.

Application Submission Instructions
The above application materials should be submitted to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation for arrival at our offices on or before the December 1 deadline. Along with the original application (hard copy), applicants must submit a USB flash drive of all the required materials.

Please number your PDF files to correspond to the listing below. To ensure proper organization of the files, please name all your files as:

“Applicant’s last name, #”

Example: If the applicant’s name is John Smith, this is how the files should be named:

Smith, 1.pdf
Smith, 2.pdf
Smith, 3.pdf and so on, so that the files correspond to the following documents:


1. Application Cover Sheets (Smith, 1.pdf)
2. At-a-Glance Form (Smith, 2.pdf)
3. Commitment Letter from Institution/Department (Smith, 3.pdf)
4. Applicant’s Letter (Smith, 4.pdf)
5. Applicant’s CV (Smith, 5.pdf)
6. Applicant’s Accomplishments (Smith, 6.pdf)
7. List of Other Sources of Funding (Smith, 7.pdf)
8. Mentor’s Letter of Support- include co-mentor’s letter in same file, if applicable (Smith, 8.pdf)
9. Mentor’s Biographical Sketch- include co-mentor’s biosketch in same file, if applicable (Smith, 9.pdf)
10. Research Proposals

A. Mentor’s Proposal for Training- include co-mentor’s proposal in same file, if applicable (Smith, 10A.pdf)
B. Applicant’s Research Proposal (Smith, 10B.pdf)

11. Safety Statement and IRB Approval (Smith, 11pdf)
12. Summary of Research Form (Smith, 12.pdf)
13. Up to three letters of collaboration (Smith, 13)
14. Up to three different publications of the applicant’s work- PDF only (Smith, 14a.pdf; Smith, 14b.pdf; Smith, 14c.pdf)
15. Merged Application (Smith, merged.pdf)

Two reference letters (sent directly to the Foundation by referees)


Send Complete Application and USB flash drive to:

Award Programs

Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation
One Exchange Plaza
55 Broadway, Suite 302
New York, NY 10006

Applications must be in our office by 4:00pm (ET) on the deadline—not simply postmarked by December 1.

Faxed or e-mailed applications will not be considered.

For more information click "Further official information" below.

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