November 17, 2021

Grant helps early-career researchers affected by COVID-19

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has received $550,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s (DDCF) COVID-19 Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center has received $550,000 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s (DDCF) COVID-19 Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists.

The funds will support the research productivity and retention of early-career faculty at Vanderbilt or Meharry Medical College who are experiencing escalating family caregiving responsibilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Qualifying faculty researchers (clinicians and non-clinicians alike) can receive up to a year of assistance, including up to $32,000 for help in the workplace to sustain or regain research momentum.

On Nov. 17, grants to Vanderbilt and 21 other medical schools were announced, totaling more than $12 million. The one-time program is funded by DDCF in concert with the American Heart Association, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the John Templeton Foundation, the Rita Allen Foundation and the Walder Foundation.

As administered at VUMC by Doris Duke PARTNERS, the funds are available to assist faculty biomedical researchers at Vanderbilt/Meharry who are funded by a career development award, having at least 50% of their effort protected for research and career development.

Katherine Hartmann, MD, PhD

“Researchers early in their careers have fewer resources at their disposal than their more established colleagues, making their projects more vulnerable to disruption when they’re attending to the care needs of a child, spouse, partner or parent, or when they themselves are ill,” said Katherine Hartmann, MD, PhD, associate dean for Clinical and Translational Scientist Development at the School of Medicine and Vice President for Research Integration at VUMC. “The COVID pandemic has exacerbated this early-career vulnerability. We’re grateful to the new fund’s farsighted benefactors for providing this vital support.”

Since 2016, Doris Duke PARTNERS has received support from DDCF’s original Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists. The VUMC program — with Hartmann and Wonder Drake, MD, professor of Medicine, serving as codirectors — provides support for early-career researchers experiencing escalating family caregiving responsibilities, or who themselves are ill; qualifying faculty at Vanderbilt/Meharry can receive up to three years of assistance, including $35,000 per year for help at work and $5,000 for household help.

“When times get tough at home, having a modest infusion of money to pay for extra lab tech time, editorial assistance, additional biostatistics support or extra research nurse time can have a huge impact in terms of keeping research on track and helping faculty members feel their lives are less chaotic,” Hartmann said.

As for support outside of work, she said the funds might go to reimburse a trusted agency to meet a home repair person during work hours, to arrange meal delivery or to coordinate family activities. (The program does not fund caregiver services.)

To apply for support from Doris Duke PARTNERS — either through the COVID program or the original program — email Helen Bird, program manager, or call 615-322-4785. For more information, visit the program website.