Environmental Factor, August 2007, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
New NIH Training and Education Director Visits NIEHS
By Eddy Ball
On July 30, NIEHS trainees and key administrators gathered in Rodbell Auditorium to meet Sharon Milgram, Ph.D. (http://www.nih.gov/catalyst/2007/07.01.01/page4.html) , during her first visit to the Institute in her official capacity as the director of the newly reorganized NIH Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE). The NIEHS Trainees Assembly (NTA) and NIEHS Office of Fellows Career Development hosted the workshop, which underscored the ongoing commitment by NTA, NIH and NIEHS administration to strive together for excellence in the Institute's training programs.
Nearly 70 of the approximately 260 trainees working at the Institute turned out to hear Milgram and other presenters offer their perspectives on the trainee-support network at NIH/NIEHS. An afternoon session on transitioning from training to careers featured a panel of five senior scientists and administrators. Milgram served as facilitator of the panel discussion and also shared her own career experiences during the question-and-answer session.
In their opening addresses to the audience, in-coming NTA Chair Anastasia Wise and steering committee representative Jennifer Adair, Ph.D., outlined the role of the NTA at the Institute and elaborated on the organization's many activities on behalf of trainees. In addition to organizing educational programs and workshops, holding the annual Biomedical Career Fair (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/careers/research/nta/index.cfm) and putting together a semi-annual orientation program for new fellows, she explained, the NTA also serves as a social network for fellows, a liaison to the administration and an advocate for fellows.
As the featured speaker of the event, Milgram discussed the mission of OITE "to support the individual training offices in the individual institutes and centers and provide a broader view of the training experience. We oversee the training of all trainees on all campuses."
"We are an office that responds to the needs of trainees all along the way," she continued. Along with supervising training at all levels and conducting training at the trans-NIH level, from pre-professional intern programs to advanced training for fellows, Milgram hopes that her office will soon be "the proud owners of an office of scientific career counseling."
Referring to the 2005 Sigma Xi Post-doc Survey (PDF) (http://www.sigmaxi.org/postdoc/highlights.pdf) , on which she was an advisor, Milgram closed her talk with a reminder to fellows about their responsibilities to take advantage of training and to be assertive about their professional needs. "The one thing that determines the satisfaction level of a post-doc and [his or her] productivity is whether that post-doc engages in meaningful career and professional development throughout the entire time as a post-doc.... Keep in mind how much power you hold in the process."
Speaking on behalf of the NIEHS administration, Director of the Office of Translational Biomedicine Bill Martin, M.D., and Deputy Scientific Director Bill Schrader, Ph.D., articulated their roles in helping to mentor and nurture young scientists at the Institute. They also voiced their support for expanding the work of the Office of Fellows Career Development, which has been headed by a part-time administrator since its creation in 2003 by then NIEHS Director Ken Olden, Ph.D.
"We are certainly committed to having a full-time person run the office," Martin stressed. "We're here to serve you and help you through a transition to choose a career you want."
Acting Director of the Office of Fellows Career Development Diane Klotz, Ph.D., described herself as "very committed to ensuring the flow of communications among the various facets of the Institute that are making decisions about career development and training." Klotz completed her postdoctoral training at NIEHS and brings a trainee-centered perspective to her administration of the office. She characterized this time as offering all of the stakeholders "a really great opportunity" for benefiting trainees at NIEHS with "the best career development programs and the best scientific training opportunities."