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Extramural Associates Program: Gaining Momentum for Y2K

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When the Extramural Associates Program was conceived 21 years ago, Dr. Robert Stone was director of NIH, Dr. William Raub was deputy director of the Office of Extramural Research (OER), Dr. Carl Douglass was director of the Division of Research Grants and Dr. Matthew Kinnard was a health scientist administrator in the extramural program of NIDR.


Kinnard, currently director of the EA program, is the only remaining member of that quartet of 21 years ago. In addition, the program has long since been relocated from DRG, its original home, and is now a component of OER, OD. The EA program was conceived by the late Frank Cady of DRG as a mechanism to promote and facilitate the entry and participation of women and minority institutions in biomedical research and research training. Cady was the program's first director. The program was originally housed in the cramped quarters of the Westwood Bldg. annex and was closely associated with the Grants Associates (GA) Program, which was terminated when the last GA completed the program in 1996.

EA Program director Dr. Matthew Kinnard (l) meets with NIH deputy director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein and Dr. Raul Armstrong of Ponce School of Medicine, Ponce, Puerto Rico.

The GA and EA programs remained close associates throughout their coexistence, although their missions were substantially different. Unlike the early days, today's EA program is housed within Suite 6095 of Rockledge II, which are plush surroundings compared to Westwood. In their present quarters, EA residents are provided personal computers, email addresses, laptop computers, phones equipped with voice mail capability and a dedicated facsimile machine. More importantly, throughout its 21-year existence, the EA program has trained more than 150 science faculty and administrators from minority and women's institutions in the art of research development at their respective institutions, where they continue to have a significant effect. As a result of their experience, EA alumni have been elevated to positions of deans, vice presidents, provosts and presidents of EA as well as mainstream institutions. Others have become CEOs in mid-sized and Fortune 500 companies while others have accepted positions in mid- and upper-level federal service.

During the recent EA biennial update conference, Kinnard highlighted other notable achievements of the program, particularly the past 5 years. They included: addition of the Extramural Associates Research Development Award (EARDA), a 3-year grant to assist the EAs in achieving the goals of the program upon returning to their home campuses following NIH residency training; in response to the well-known "pipeline" issue concerning the dearth of women and minorities in mathematics, science and technology, selected community colleges have been added to the list of EA-eligible institutions; taken advantage of a streamlined procedure for acquiring surplus laboratory and office equipment; extended the EA residency training to most federal and nonfederal agencies that award extramural resources in mathematics, science and technology; instituted a 1-week mid-semester break for the EA residents to return to their home campuses to ease their permanent transition back on completion of the 5-month residency training; fully utilized the personnel and resources of several national organizations whose goals are similar to EA's such as the Society of Research Administrators (SRA), the National Sponsored Programs Administrators Alliance and the Council of Undergraduate Research. During SRA's October 1998 national convention, the EA program officially became a special interest group of SRA under the auspices of the education subcommittee. During the 1999 SRA national meeting, Kinnard received the Hartford-Nicholson award for significant contributions to SRA that benefit its entire membership and for fostering the overall mission of the SRA.

The theme of the 2-day EA update conference was "The Spirit of the EA Program: Let Each One Teach One." This theme was echoed through constant networking both by design and spontaneously by all participants. Other features of the conference were: participation by 12 presidents of EARDA-recipient institutions; description of a model sponsored programs office that included the institution's president and two former EAs who currently head the sponsored programs office; a recent update of new policies and programs at NIH; a keynote address by NIH deputy director Dr. Ruth Kirschstein; an overview of the mission and activities of five national organizations whose goals are consistent with goals of the EA program, and an awards ceremony. Approximately 70 EA alumni attended the conference. Six of the first 12 EA participants — four of whom are still actively serving at the same institution as they did 21 years ago — also attended. Since 1994, the program has made 44 EARDA phase I 3-year grant awards and has awarded 14 phase II EARDA's totaling $5.5 million.

So in spite of its inauspicious and rather uncertain beginning, the EA program's future appears bright. This perception is supported by the level of optimism exhibited by EA alumni throughout the conference. Given a prediction of what the U.S. workforce will look like 25 years into the next millennium, the EA program appears to be right on target.

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