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Long-term Effects from Early Exposure to Research: Evidence from the NIH "Yellow Berets'' -- by Pierre Azoulay, Wesley H. Greenblatt, Misty L. Heggeness

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 more likely to initially enter academic medicine, and 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. The direction of their research efforts was also 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.