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New clinician-scientist training programs and an update on the NIDCD’s September advisory council meeting

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Group of five laboratory scientists in lab coats, masks and gloves, working at lab with test tubes, microscope, flasks, and laptop.

September 30, 2021

Building on our commitment to growing the biomedical research workforce in the NIDCD’s research areas, the institute has launched new programs aimed at fostering the development of research skills among clinicians. In this director’s message, I describe these new initiatives, and provide a brief summary of topics discussed at our most recent National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NDCD) Advisory Council Meeting in September.

NIDCD expands training opportunities for clinician-scientists

Clinician-scientists possess a powerful combination of skills, having experience in both patient care and in gathering data and testing hypotheses. People with this blend of expertise are uniquely positioned to accelerate clinical advances through the two-way process of translating scientific findings into clinical applications and providing clinical data and specimens for analyses of disease mechanisms. However, we recognize that the length and cost of training in two disciplines pose major obstacles for many. In addition, the limited number of clinicians with active research programs has led to a shortage of role models and mentors for potential trainees.

To help offset these challenges and expand the clinician-scientist workforce in NIDCD research areas, the institute has launched new training programs using the NIH R25 (research education) mechanism. The overarching goal of these programs is to recruit clinicians to careers in biomedical research by facilitating their access to research opportunities and experienced mentors. R25 awards are institutional grants intended to complement rather than substitute for National Research Service Award (NRSA) institutional training grants (T32). The R25s allow for considerable latitude, enabling grantee institutions to tailor the nature, length, and timing of the participation of clinicians in research training activities to their career level and degree of experience.

The new R25 programs focus on providing clinician scientists with either research experiences or access to a mentoring network. We hope that relationships established through the programs will form the basis of participants’ professional networks as they progress with their education and embark upon rewarding and productive careers as clinician-scientists.

Research experience R25s

The research experience R25 programs will provide participants with mentored, hands-on research opportunities, and, as appropriate, instruction in complementary skills such as effective communication, data analysis, and implementation science. There are two new programs, with one open to study in any NIDCD mission area, and the other limited to the field of otolaryngology.

Mentoring network R25

The mentoring networks formed through this R25 program will foster the development of participants’ professional skills, such as scholarly writing, grantsmanship, managing career transitions, and leadership development. We encourage the formation of networks with a national or regional scope among research institutions and professional societies. The NIDCD is especially interested in programs that include participants and investigators from a diversity of backgrounds, as well as those with disabilities. The mentoring networks must be relevant to one of the NIDCD’s mission areas.

You can find answers to commonly asked questions on our clinician-scientist R25 FAQs page. For additional information, you may wish to view a video presentation on the programs given by Alberto Rivera-Rentas, Ph.D., research training officer in the Division of Scientific Programs, who oversees the programs.

Looking ahead, I invite you to participate in the Clinician-Scientists (R25) Training Webinar we will be hosting on October 26, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Dr. Rivera-Rentas will present a detailed overview of the clinician-scientist R25 programs and answer your questions, which may be submitted in advance. We will post a recorded version of the webinar on our website following the event.

In the meantime, if you have questions about the programs or would like guidance on the application process, contact Dr. Rivera-Rentas.

National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Advisory Council Meeting, September 9-10

On September 9-10, the institute’s advisory council convened virtually. Portions of our council meetings are open to the public, and I invite you to watch the archived videocasts of the open sessions (September 9 and September 10) and to join us online for our next meeting, to be held January 27-28, 2022. A few highlights from September’s meeting are summarized below.

  • Rebecca Wagenaar-Miller, Ph.D., has been appointed the new director of the NIDCD Division of Extramural Activities (DEA). In her new role, she will guide extramural research policy, oversee the division’s grants management and scientific review branches, and serve as executive secretary of the NDCD Advisory Council. To view this segment, start at the 9 minute mark in the September 9 videocast.
  • Kelly King, Au.D., Ph.D., an NIDCD program officer in the Division of Scientific Programs, outlined the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) World Report on Hearing and the NIDCD’s role in its creation. WHO’s Shelly Chadha, M.B.B.S., M.S., Ph.D., lead author of the report, described its contents and WHO’s plans for implementing its recommendations. To view this segment, start at the 44 minute mark in the September 9 videocast.
  • Laura Cole, Ph.D., an NIDCD planning and evaluation officer in the Office of Administration, reported on progress made on the NIDCD strategic plan, which will define the institute’s research priorities in 2022-2027. A team of experts will meet online in December to follow up on concepts generated at the kickoff meeting in July. Nirupa Chaudhari, Ph.D., and Dan Sanes, Ph.D., advisory council liaisons to the strategic planning process, emphasized the value of collecting perspectives from diverse experts and encouraged advisory council members to share their viewpoints. To watch this segment, start at the 1 hour 42 minute mark in the September 9 videocast.
  • Avindra Nath, M.D., chief of the Section of Infections of the Nervous System at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, gave a presentation on the neurological complications of COVID-19, focusing on multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children and long COVID in adults. To view this segment, start at the 1 hour 5 minute mark in the September 10 videocast.
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