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Grant broadens graduate, postdoc training programs

Sep. 26, 2013, 9:21 AM

Participants in the BEST grant application were, from left, Kimberly Petrie, Ph.D., director of the BRET Office of Career Development; Kate Stuart, program coordinator of the Office of Career Development; Roger Chalkley, D.Phil., senior associate dean for Education in Biomedical Sciences; and Kathleen Gould, Ph.D., associate dean for Biomedical Sciences and director of the Office of Graduate Student Support. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has received a five-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop “bold and innovative approaches to broaden graduate and postdoctoral training.”

Vanderbilt is one of 10 academic medical centers in the country to receive “BEST” (Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training) grants from the NIH’s Common Fund. The goal of the national program is to help train U.S. scientists for today’s more diverse array of employment opportunities.

“This announcement is true evidence that our biomedical Ph.D. training programs and initiatives are among the most innovative in the nation,” said Susan Wente, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences.

The Vanderbilt program, called ASPIRE (Augmenting Scholar Preparation and Integration with Research-Related Endeavors) will be co-directed by Roger Chalkley, D.Phil., senior associate dean in the Office of Biomedical Research Education & Training (BRET), and Kathleen Gould, Ph.D., associate dean for Biomedical Sciences and director of Graduate Student Support.

“I have just returned from a national meeting addressing graduate student and postdoc needs, and very high on the agenda was the issue of career development.” Chalkley said. “This reflects just how our emphasis on these issues is fully in tune with national goals and interests.”

“The awarding of this grant (OD018423) recognizes the leadership role VUMC has taken in developing programs to support the professional development of our trainees,” said Gould, who also directs the Vanderbilt International Scholar Program.

“The BEST-ASPIRE grant will allow us to significantly enhance the pioneering efforts of the BRET Office of Career Development,” she said.

ASPIRE will be conducted in three phases:

• In the IMPACT Phase, Vanderbilt faculty will lead discussions of professionalism and career development with small groups of first-year graduate students.

IMPACT (Intensive Mentoring Program to Accelerate Career Transitions) is a required course that began at Vanderbilt in 2006. It provides Ph.D. trainees with mentoring relationships to help them succeed in their new rigorous academic research environment.

• In the Exploration Phase, second- and third-year Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows will learn about careers through the existing Ph.D. Career Connections seminar series, annual Career Symposium, a new “Beyond the Lab” video series, and new optional ASPIRE to CONNECT and ASPIRE to PLAN programs.

They also can apply for and conduct an optional externship to shadow a professional for one to three days.

• In the Enhancement Phase, which was designed for postdoctoral fellows and students who have passed their qualifying exams, trainees can choose from among 12 new modules in business and entrepreneurship, communication or clinical research. They also may take optional internships to gain hands-on experience related to their career interests.

“It is exciting how these training initiatives will creatively tap the strengths of our One Vanderbilt campus,” said Wente.

In addition to Gould and Chalkley, ASPIRE was developed by Kimberly Petrie, Ph.D., director of the BRET Office of Career Development, and Kate Stuart, the office’s program coordinator.

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