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NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

‘Teachers Are Students…Students are Teachers’

Past Attendees Laud Retreat Experience

Retreat participants pose in front of the inn.

Earlier this year, Sullivan (r) as well as NCI’s Dr. Hoyoung Maeng and Dr. Kathryn Lurain gather with other retreat participants for the group shot.

NCI’s Dr. Steven Pavletic has first-hand experience with the Southeastern Fellows Research Skills and Training Workshop. Senior clinician and head of the graft-versus-host and autoimmunity section in the Experimental Transplantation and Immunology Branch, he attended as faculty in 2016. 

“My assigned roles were to lead two small working groups in sessions on clinical protocols and grant writing,” he said. “In addition, I was asked to give a short TED-like talk on leadership in the session on academic career development. This latter was particularly enjoyable since it forced me to succinctly reflect on what I currently do, how I got here and what I could teach the next generation of physicians on academic life. I also taught them about unique opportunities in the NIH intramural program for those pursuing research careers, since it is not so widely known. 

“The main impression I took from this course is the reinforcement in the conviction about the old saying that ‘Teachers are students and students are teachers.’ The main differences between me and my students are only time and experience. Teaching and learning are truly two-way roads. Trying to convey a little piece of what we have learned to help navigate better through the increasing challenges of the academic clinical research is what this course is all about. The summary impressions of this outstanding and unique course are simple: I wish that somebody had delivered something like this to me when I was at that stage and I am immensely grateful for this opportunity to have attended...Dr. Keith Sullivan and Duke University should be commended for launching this course 17 years ago.” 

NCI’s Dr. Hoyoung Maeng and Dr. Kathryn Lurain were trainees together at the retreat earlier this year. 

“It is a valuable experience that the fellows get connected with other institution fellows—juniors and seniors—and have the chance to ask about the things that we did not have opportunities to ask with daily busy training,” recalled Maeng, staff clinician in the Vaccine Branch of the Center for Cancer Research. “It was protected learning time also with some relaxed time to enjoy the family on the beach.” 

In relation to her NCI fellowship, she also mentioned mutual benefits gained by trainees and faculty. “I felt very proud that we were more experienced than anyone over there—including some faculty—in terms of clinical protocols, since we see solely clinical trial patients,” Maeng said. “There are pros and cons for seeing the trial patients, but for me it served the purpose of coming here and it was great to share my experience at the fellows level with other trainees from other institutions. I am very grateful for the opportunity…and hope it continues.”

Chief fellow in the combined NCI/NHLBI Hematology/Oncology Fellowship, Lurain agreed, “I would echo Hoyoung’s sentiments. I found being able to spend time in a dedicated setting with successful faculty, young and old, to be incredibly helpful and inspiring to my own career. The grant- writing workshop was also especially helpful as this is not something we get a tremendous amount of practice with at the NIH, but is fundamental to a successful academic career outside the intramural program. And it wasn’t half bad getting to hang out with my family and Hoyoung in a beautiful setting.”

Finally, Pavletic also had a message “for the future organizers of this and similar courses. This course teaches the new researchers also about resilience and tenacity, which are indispensable character ingredients in these days of greatest need for a larger clinical researcher work force. Such courses and the medical schools must adjust their curricula to build new leaders [that] the future of medicine needs. Besides the indispensable outstanding training in medical care, they need also to acquire skills and awareness on how to manage and lead large teams and complexes in academia, industry, government, health care and finance. 

“Doctors are, by definition, very busy but we need to find ways to reclaim our profession and develop the new generation of clinicians-scientists who will be able to exert their roles as the leaders of the future. Such courses as this at Duke provide an indispensable and empowering tool.”

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