Clinical pharmacologists in universities play major roles in research and teaching, and provide important contributions to National Health Service (NHS) activities, such as work for research ethics, drug and therapeutics, and clinical governance committees. Their research extends from pre-clinical studies using drugs to understand physiology and the mechanisms of disease, to large-scale clinical trials and population studies. This work is truly translational, with a focus on drugs and medicines and an emphasis on efficacy and safety. The lack of an organ base has allowed clinical pharmacologists to follow their interests wherever they lead, but their visibility has been hampered by successive earlier versions of the General Medical Council's Tomorrow's Doctors document, which undermined some of the necessary scientific underpinning of medical practice, and reduced the time clinical pharmacologists had to interact with medical students and recently qualified doctors at the point of choosing their careers. Additional problems have arisen from the stifling effect of the EU Clinical Trials Directive, and its UK interpretation, on clinical research. For future success, clinical pharmacologists need to embrace translational research, use recent changes to Tomorrow's Doctors, linked to the creation of safe prescribing skills, to spend more face-to-face time with their students, fight for a simplification and proportionate regulation of research, and persuade doctors, health service planners, and the government, of the importance of clinical pharmacology for UK clinical research, the NHS, patient safety, and creation of health and wealth. © 2012 The Author. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology © 2012 The British Pharmacological Society.