|T H E N I H C A T A L Y S T||M A R C H A P R I L 1999|
|F R O M||T H E||D E P U T Y||D I R E C T O R||F O R||I N T R A M U R A L||R E S E A R C H|
TOWARD AN NIH ACADEMY
WE NOW NEED TO
BOTH HARDER AND
TRAINING TO NIH
AND TO PROVIDE
In addition to its pre-eminent role as a research institution, the NIH has a formidable reputation for the quality of its trainees. Contributing to the sense of excitement and scholarship on campus are numerous students at all levels of educationhigh school, college, postbaccalaureate, graduate, and postdoctoral. We have a responsibility to these students to provide the best quality training and mentoring that we can. To this end, our ethics and conduct committee, under the direction of Joan Schwartz, has completed a new Guide to Training and Mentoring in the Intramural Research Program (see "Mentoring at NIH"), which has recently been distributed to all trainees and principal investigators at NIH. I hope you have had an opportunity to read this pamphlet and discuss it with your trainees, colleagues, mentors, and supervisors.
This Guide is just the beginning. Over the past few years we have become aware that there are other important ways in which we can improve training opportunities at NIH. The recent Slavkin committees Report and Recommendations of the Committee for Recruitment of a Diverse Workforce in Medical Research points out that an important way to help guarantee more attention to research problems related to health disparities is to train a cadre of scientists who themselves come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
It has been apparent for many years that the pool of researchers from which NIH chooses its junior and senior faculty has far fewer African-Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans than found in the general U.S. population, and we have created a conglomeration of programs to address this problem. We now need to do much moreworking both harder and smarterto attract a diverse group of scientists-in-training to NIH and to provide an intellectually challenging yet nurturing environment.
The Slavkin report strongly recommends that the NIH develop a training Academy whose goal is to identify, recruit, and nurture talented young scientists from all over the country. Major components of the Academy include an active recruitment program, better coordination of existing programs, more uniformly high quality mentoring and training experiences, and continuity of programs from high school through college and graduate school, as well as postdoctoral experiences (both at NIH and among the NIH and other extramural academic institutions) and the possibility of housing on or near the NIH campus. Among the various Institute programs for recruiting young investigators, many of these components already exist. The NIH Academy would give clearer definition and cohesion to these programs, would increase the visibility of NIH as an important training institution, and would guarantee more uniformity in quality among the various programs at NIH.
In addition to the Institute summer programs, which most NIH scientists know about, there are several programs supported by the Office of the Director that illustrate some of the approaches that might be taken by the new NIH Academy. With joint sponsorship from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the FAES, NIH has run a highly selective program for local high school students for the past 12 years. In addition to a laboratory experience, this program includes a weekly session at which students present their own research and learn about the research of their colleagues. The Undergraduate Scholarship Program, under the direction of Marc Horowitz in the Office of Loan Repayment and Scholarship, is in its third successful year of recruiting disadvantaged students from around the country. These students work at NIH in the summer, are housed together and carefully mentored, and have college tuition and expenses paid by NIH. For each year of NIH support, they owe a year of service to NIH. This program has already been the source of many outstanding NIH students, and we look forward to their return as fellows and investigators at NIH.
Our two medical student programs are also quite successful. The Howard Hughes Medical InstituteNIH Scholars program brings second-year medical students to NIH for a research lab experience, and the Clinical Research Training Program brings third-year medical students here for a clinical research experience. Each of these programs provides housing, tutorials, mentorship, and the full range of research opportunities available at the NIH. Many of the students serve as role models and mentors for other students on the campus, demonstrating how cross-age mentoring can be a very positive tool in the training of students at all levels.
I will be appointing a working group of interested NIH scientists, educators, and administrators who will make specific recommendations for creating a more inclusive training Academy at NIH. I welcome your ideas, and we will be depending on you for support as we implement the recommendations of this working group.
Deputy Director for Intramural Research
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