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Environmental Factor, June 2012

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Future NIH management leaders visit NIEHS

By Kimberly Thigpen Tart

A cadre of future NIH science management and policy leaders made a trek April 23 from Bethesda, Md., to North Carolina. Eighteen Presidential Management Fellows (PMFs) and NIH Management Interns (MIs) traveled to NIEHS to learn about the Institute and its programs, and speak with staff about potential intern rotations.

The Presidential Management Fellowship is a federal government-wide program that NIH has participated in since 1985. NIH PMFs develop rotational assignments across the various institutes and centers (ICs), in a broad range of administrative and programmatic research support areas, including budget and finance, outreach and communications, information technology, grants management, program and management analysis, contracts management, human resources, and general administration. These rotational opportunities provide on-the-job training with exposure to senior leadership.

The NIH Management Intern program was established in 1957 and has trained over 400 interns. The program offers the opportunity for highly motivated NIH employees to explore different administrative fields, gain invaluable insight into science management, and change careers within NIH.

Getting the NIEHS perspective

During their visit, the PMFs and MIs were given an overview of NIEHS history and current strategic planning efforts by Kimberly Thigpen Tart, J.D., and Sheila Newton, Ph.D., and viewed a video on the field of environmental health, created by the American Public Health Association for the 100th anniversary of its Environment Section, which features many NIEHS grantees. The visitors then had an opportunity to meet and hear the career stories of former PMFs and MIs who are now working at NIEHS, including Liam O’Fallon, Jerry Phelps, Jim Remington, and Molly Puente from the Division of Extramural Research and Training, as well as Dona McNeill, Chris Long, and Joellen Austin from the Office of Management.

After a walking tour of the Institute, led by John Schelp of the Office of Science Education and Diversity, and lunch in the cafeteria, the interns learned about some of the Institute’s unique programs through presentations by senior staff. Presenters included Liam O’Fallon on the Partnerships for Environmental Public Health program; Kris Thayer, Ph.D., on the NTP Office of Health Assessment and Translation; Stavros Garantziotis, M.D., on the Clinical Research Unit; Jim Remington on the Worker Education and Training Program and Deepwater Horizon efforts; and Jane Schroeder, Ph.D., on the NIEHS journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The day was rounded out with a presentation and driving tour of the area, hosted by Tina Valdecanas of the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina.

Positive outcomes

MI Ned Culhane wrote in an email, following the visit, “The wide variety of sessions and staff with whom we interacted provided a unique perspective into the Institute and its culture.” PMF Caroline Sonnefeld wrote, “The trip was well received by all of the interns and I’m sure you’ll see some of us in North Carolina for rotations.” The NIEHS Bethesda office is currently hosting PMF Maya Levine in a policy rotation.

NIEHS Executive Officer Joellen Austin, whose office sponsored the trip, says that the visit was important because “It provides up-and-coming leaders at NIH insight into who we are and what we do here, that they might not otherwise get because we’re not on NIH’s main campus. It’s a good recruitment tool, as well as another way to keep NIEHS integrated with all of the other NIH ICs.”

(Kimberly Thigpen Tart, J.D., is a program analyst in the NIEHS Office of Policy, Planning, and Evaluation.)

Future NIH leaders joined their hosts on the NIEHS patio.

Future leaders joined their hosts on the NIEHS patio. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

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