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December 1, 2017
NCCIH Workshop Helps Trainees Build Research Careers
Workshop participants gather with NCCIH acting director Dr. David Shurtleff (front, c) and staff.
Workshop participants gather with NCCIH acting director Dr. David Shurtleff (front, c) and staff.

A diverse group of pre- and postdoctoral NCCIH research fellows and trainees gathered in Natcher Bldg. Oct. 16–17 for a career development workshop, NCCIH Fellows and Trainees: Building a Successful Research Career Path. The workshop focused on preparing them for the next stage of their careers in complementary and integrative health research.

“As outlined in our strategic plan, we want to push the NCCIH research agenda forward by training the next generation of scientists and teaching them how to successfully navigate the complex NIH system,” said acting NCCIH director Dr. David Shurtleff.

What made this workshop unique is that both mentors and trainees supported on F awards and T programs were invited to attend. This dynamic demonstrated strong investment and hands-on involvement from NCCIH and mentors.

The workshop’s goals were to help students connect NIH funding opportunities across stages of their career development, understand how to interact with staff to develop proposals, navigate the review process successfully, develop resilience to overcome career roadblocks and develop a plan for a successful research career.

Dr. Emmeline Edwards, director of NCCIH’s Division of Extramural Research, highlighted NIH’s Next Generation Researchers Initiative and NCCIH’s commitment to promote earlier independence and increased funding for new investigators.

Dr. Kay Lund, director of the NIH Division of Biomedical Research Workforce, shared her career progression from academia, including her experiences in graduate school and postdoctoral training, to appointments at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School and the University of North Carolina prior to joining NIH. She discussed the division’s responsibilities for policy and extramural programs related to training, career development and diversity in the biomedical research workforce.

Lund also highlighted the division’s research and economic analyses focused on prediction of workforce trends and future needs for growth and diversity of the biomedical research workforce at all levels.

The workshop offered a range of opportunities for participants, including sessions on NIH funding, career timeline planning and navigating peer review with a mock study section, as well as small group breakouts on proposal development and career roadblocks. Attendees also had the option to tour NCCIH intramural lab facilities and interacted with program staff from nine other institutes and centers from across NIH.

“Transitioning to the first independent position can be daunting and challenging for young scientists,” said Dr. Lanay Mudd, NCCIH training officer and workshop organizer. “This workshop was designed to cover a wide range of topics that pre-and postdocs need to help them succeed in the transition. Developing this workshop supports NCCIH’s commitment to research training, career development and increasing the diversity of the biomedical research workforce.”

While mentors were asked to participate in all the sessions, there was also programming specifically for them. They enjoyed a training module facilitated by the National Research Mentoring Network and had a chance to meet with NCCIH program, review, grants management and senior staff to share mentoring strategies.

Workshop participants were provided with a toolkit of practical resources. NCCIH plans to offer this workshop every other year so that all fellows and trainees have an opportunity to attend.

“The feedback from the participants was extremely positive,” said Mudd. Comments included: “I loved networking and hearing the reality of the review process. Hearing about challenges and roadblocks was encouraging and humanizing.” “Excellent information on funding sources, barriers and supports [and] for career development trajectories” and “NIH is massive and can be intimidating; this workshop helped me to know it better!”

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