T H E   N I H   C A T A L Y S T     J A N U A R Y  –  F E B R U A R Y  2008


From the Director, Office of Intramural Training and Education

Sharon Milgram

"Great work comes from happy trainees. Happy trainees work at NIH."

This spin on an old ad campaign (about certain dairy products) is supported by empirical data. According to the Sigma Xi Postdoctoral Survey, postdoctoral fellows who participate in career and professional development activities are more productive and experience less conflict during their postdoctoral experience.

To help you make sure our trainees are productive and happy, we at the OITE have revamped our services and our style. The OITE complex now incorporates the Career Counseling Center (see column on right), open to all trainees, and three other units: the Graduate Partnerships Program (GPP), Postbac and Summer Research Programs, and the Office of Postdoctoral Services.

The recently created Career Counseling Center and Office of Postdoctoral Services (OPS) will work together to promote career development for our largest group—the postdocs.

In the coming year, we will focus on creating new programming, including courses in lab management, effective communication, leadership, and grantsmanship. We will also keeps tabs on national postdoctoral programs to ensure that NIH is out front in attracting, retaining, and providing services for fellows.

Another initiative in the OITE is to provide more diverse and comprehensive training, incuding programs to help guide trainees through tricky work-related situations, such as interactions in large multicultural teams and handling conflict.

We are creating teaching initiatives, including a new course—"Scientists Teaching Science"—and programs for trainees to visit local liberal arts colleges to get a first-hand look at what faculty positions at such institutions are like.

We are also expanding our ESL offerings and will soon provide workshops for supervisors who want to mentor and train students more effectively at all educational levels.

A priority is to give all NIH trainees access to OITE services. We are routinely traveling to other campuses, improving our videoconferencing capabilities, and clustering activities so that when off-campus trainees attend our events, they have a full day of useful workshops, discussions, and presentations to make it worth their while.

Two such "clustered" events are the First Annual Career Symposium on April 9, which will provide 15 discussion panels on a variety of biomedical careers, including science writing, undergraduate teaching, science policy, and research-intensive careers in all sectors. Panelists with varied educational experiences and backgrounds were invited to this inaugural event organized by the Fellows Committee, the Graduate Student Council, OITE, and other NIH offices.

We are also holding a graduate and medical school fair in July. We plan to offer workshops to help our summer interns and postbacs prepare strong applications for graduate and professional schools, and we will welcome representatives from up to 80 institutions who are coming to recruit our students and learn about our excellent training programs. Please visit our website for updates on our events and encourage your trainees to stop by the OITE to get acquainted with our staff and services. If you have ideas you’d like to share, call me at 301-594-2053 or send me an e-mail.



by Caroline Small
OITE communications intern

The Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) has opened a Career Counseling Center in Building 2, the first at NIH focused on meeting the needs of the nearly 5,000 trainees, from postbacs to postdocs, who came to NIH to expand their research universe and launch their careers.

OITE Director Sharon Milgram identified the need for trainee-oriented career counseling as her top priority when she arrived at NIH in early 2007. Trainees expressed feeling lost in their careers had often sought information on career opportunities both at and away from the bench. The OITE staff had addressed these needs by acting as career advisors and assisting with CV and résumé development.

With the advent of the Career Counseling Center, four dedicated certified counselors were hired to handle the large number of trainees requesting these and other services. The counselors’ schedules filled almost immediately–about 200 trainees have taken advantage of the service since the center’s inception in October. The center will celebrate its grand opening in April.

Counselors assist with self-assessment, understanding career options, and developing the means to meet career goals. They also offer mock interviews and help trainees apply to graduate and professional school and for jobs in all fields. Upon request and at no charge, they administer the Strong Inventory, which helps identify an individual’s specific career interest, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which helps analyze an individual’s working style and personality type.

The four certified career counselors currently on staff are Melanie Sinche, who developed the plan for the center; Elaine Diggs and Anne Kirchgessner, who travel regularly to the NIH campuses in Baltimore, Frederick, and Research Triangle Park, N.C.; and Denise Saunders, a licensed psychologist, who is stationed in Durham, N.C., and travels to Bethesda. In addition, William Higgins, a professor of biology at the University of Maryland, College Park, advises on graduate and professional school.

The OITE staff anticipates additional hiring, including an employer development specialist to connect trainees with worldwide employment opportunities.

The center holds workshops on topics including résumé and cover-letter writing, improving networking skills, and career options for scientists. It also hosts discussions with professionals from different scientific fields, creates employer connections via on-campus visits, and hosts career fairs.

"This is just the beginning," says Pat Sokolove, OITE deputy director.

The next major event is the Career Symposium on April 9, 2008. Sponsored by the NIH Fellows Committee, the Graduate Student Council, OITE, and the Career Counseling Center, it will bring representatives from a range of fields, including nonprofits, law firms, and foundations. The full-day symposium will include panels, speakers, and skill-building workshops.

The Career Counseling Center is open to all trainees. To sign up for an appointment with a counselor, check the OITE website under "Opportunities for Current Trainees."




by Lori Bibb

Beginning in March, the NIH continuing medical education (CME) program will have a new partner—The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Office of Continuing Medical Education (JHU CME), based in Baltimore.

Before its recent restructuring, the NIH Office of Education had managed CME and, with the Foundation for Advanced Education in the Sciences (FAES), maintained accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). Reorganization as well as employee attrition led to the JHU partnership to ensure continuation of CME at NIH.

The NIH CME office has been transferred to the Clinical Center’s Office of Clinical Research Training and Medical Education, under the leadership of Fred Ognibene. Linda Wisniewski in the office will become the NIH CME liaison between the NIH staff and the JHU CME office.

The partnership is expected to revitalize the CME program and improve the handling of registration, attestation for credit, and program evaluation.

Last year, NIH offered 45 CME-accredited activities, such as the Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series, the Clinical Center Grand Rounds, and other seminars and courses. In years past, however, there were many more offerings—484 in the four-year period from 2003 to 2006, including 136 regularly scheduled conferences, 150 journal article readings, 86 FAES courses, and 47 enduring materials (nonlive CME-accredited activities such as viewing a video or CD-ROM).

During this four-year period, 80,535 physicians and 92,053 nonphysicians participated in 9,329 hours of CME instruction at NIH. CME is considered a critical activity for medical professionals to maintain basic skills as well as licensure. In the United States, all states require CME for practicing physicians as a condition of continuing licensure, although the number of credits required varies by state.

Joan Schwartz, assistant director for intramural research, expects that CME activities that were discontinued because of a lack of staff, such as enduring materials, will be reinstated. She also anticipates that the new partnership will yield an increasing number of NIH CME offerings, partly because NIH staff will be able to participate in JHU activities as well. The JHU CME office sponsors more than 300 CME-accredited activities for the university each year.

The ACCME determines what types of programs can be considered CME, taking into account the content of the presentation or materials, the design of the materials, and any conflicts of interest of the presenter(s). Materials can include live lectures, written publications, online programs; they can be audio or video.

The transition to the partnership will be transparent, says Schwartz. On the horizon are the use of the JHU Office of CME website, the possibility of the use of a card reader to track attendance, and the means to do evaluations electronically. These changes will be detailed at this website.



After many months of planning and design by members of the Webpage Subcommittee and the NIH Center for Information Technology (CIT), FelCom has gone live with a new website.

The old site had no IT support and was difficult to update. The new one, spearheaded by FelCom NINDS representative Michele Rankin, is CIT supported, easier to keep current given the turnover of FelCom members, and–most important—a great resource for all NIH fellows.

Fellows can find:

Names and contact information of FelCom representatives

Subcommittee descriptions

Synopses on roles of FelCom liaisons

Upcoming activities

FelCom meeting minutes

Links to the NIH handbook for postdocs, Fellow-L (the fellows list serve), and the ever-popular Fellows Merchandise and Exchange Board.

A link to the ClinFelCom portal can also be found here. Designed by clinical fellows Hemant Sarin (NIBIB/CC), Kathy Calvo (NCI), and Melissa Meredith (NHGRI), with the assistance of the Office of Clinical Research Training and Medical Education, the portal offers access to many items of particular interest to clinical fellows, including:

The history of Clinical FelCom

Supplemental courses

Grant-writing resources

Links to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, local medical boards, the NIH Clinical Research Information System and the Picture Archiving and Communication System

Other highlights of interest include the list of upcoming offerings from the Career Development Subcommittee, as well as links to archived seminars.

Information about FelCom’s annual FARE competition (FARE 2009 is coming soon in March!) is also available. There is also a link for the Visiting Fellows Subcommittee, a particularly active committee composed of and serving postdoctoral visiting fellows and recently made a part of FelCom.

Find out what other NIH fellows are doing and how and where you can meet more fellows—such as at monthly FelCom Fridays (sometimes held on Thursday or Wednesday), hosted by the Social Subcommittee.

The Webpage Subcommittee welcomes comments or suggestions for improvement, which can be sent via the "Contact us" link in the upper right-hand corner of the home page.

Funded by the Office of Intramural Training and Education and implemented by the Division of Enterprise and Custom Applications branch of CIT, the new FelCom website can be accessed here.

—Michele Rankin
Hemant Sarin



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