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Welcoming the Inaugural Director of the NIH Division of Biomedical Research Workforce Programs

I am pleased and excited to announce that in August, Dr. Kay Lund will join NIH as the inaugural director of the NIH Division of Biomedical Research Workforce Programs.

As you might recall, the NIH Advisory Committee to the Director‘s Biomedical Workforce Working Group recommended that NIH recruit a leader and establish a dedicated office to guide NIH’s training and development of a well-prepared biomedical workforce. Dr. Lund is both an exemplary leader and a highly accomplished biomedical researcher and mentor. She was the first to clone the proglucagon gene that led to the discovery of two new hormones now being used in clinical trials, and is the holder of two patents, one for the treatment of aged-related cognitive decline and other conditions, and another recently approved patent for combining capsule imaging devices with biological probes to improve capsule endoscopy – a new screening procedure for gastrointestinal disease. Prior to joining NIH, Dr. Lund held the endowed Sarah Graham Kenan Professorship in Cell Biology and Physiology, with joint appointments as Professor in Pediatrics and Nutrition, at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And highly importantly to her role at NIH, Dr. Lund is recognized as a leader in biomedical workforce training and development. She has trained and mentored over 30 research fellows and junior faculty and 22 predoctoral trainees who have been successful in science. Her dedication to training and mentorship has resulted in many awards and recognition from professional societies, including the American Physiology Society and American Gastroenterology Association.

In her role at NIH, Dr. Lund will lead and continue to implement recommendations from the working group. We have been busy implementing many of these recommendations, such as the expansion of NIH institute and center participation in F30 and F31 training fellowships, the BEST program, the increase of postdoctoral fellow stipends, and the implementation of individual development plan (IDP) expectations. The new division has also been busy embarking on new and exciting projects both recommended by the working group and expanding on the working group goals. As described a recent NIH Guide notice, we are finalizing the development of the xTRACT reporting system to help in gathering better biomedical workforce data. A new training website is now available to help connect trainees with funding opportunities appropriate to their career stage. With the recent recruitment of two labor economists, this division is applying economic research and expertise to better understand how NIH supports graduate students and postdocs. There are many major activities underway related to biomedical workforce and training policy development, research and career development, workforce diversity, and the economics of the biomedical research workforce. Dr. Lund’s strong leadership, vision and experience will further catalyze NIH’s biomedical workforce vision.

I hope you all join me in welcoming Dr. Lund to her new position and stay tuned to hear more about the many initiatives she will lead to strengthen the biomedical workforce.

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2 thoughts on “Welcoming the Inaugural Director of the NIH Division of Biomedical Research Workforce Programs

  1. Welcome Kay! I have been anxiously waiting to hear about the launch of this office since it was mentioned three years ago in the biomedical workforce report and subsequent implementation strategy. For all our sakes, I hope Kay and her team are able to move mountains. Much work needs to be done and I hope the NIH is finally at a point where they can swollow some bitter pills and make some much needed major changes, particularly on how the biomedical workforce is structured. Unfortunately, I think Kay may be walking into a disaster that the NIH has been ignoring for far too long. The BEST analogy I can think of is a ship’s crew trying to patch holes on a sinking ship with plastic wrap and duct tape while making announcements to the passengers that the leaks have been fixed and its full steam ahead. I don’t blame Dr. Rockey for getting on a life raft now, ie leaving the NIH, before the passengers on this ship begin to see water filling the decks. I see that there is still no mention of the survey that was completed over a year ago on the health (and other) benefits that NRSA postdocs receive compared to non-NRSA, employee postdocs. We all know what the results will show, that NRSA postdocs have been at a significant disadvantage in terms of benefits compared to non-NRSA postdocs. Can the NIH just admit this, correct the problem, and move forward. I am truly convinced that the NIH has buried these results in fear of the backlash from the research community. I am now exploring filing a FOIA request to obtain the results of this survey in order to make them public.

    Speaking of NRSA awards for postdocs, I happened to stumble upon a striking data set, which examines the percentage of NIH NRSA F32 awardees to subsequently obtain an R level grant. One of the recommendations that has been floating around in the community to fix the dire state of biomedical training is to shift more trainees to F32s and T32s, as it is believed that these mechanisms offer the training that more often leads to future success in obtaining PI positions and getting R level grants. This data clearly paints a different picture starting in the 2000’s. I imagine the labor economists in this new NIH office have already or will soon enough reach the same conclusions presented in this data set. It would take a tripling of the NIH budget to right this ship. As that is not going to happen, the NIH needs to be thinking about how to get passengers to safety instead of wasting precious time on these flimsy patches that don’t fix the problem and only delay the inevitable.

  2. Welcome Kay, I can only hope that, as you have mentored individuals at several career levels, you can stem the tide of focus that seems bent on seeing ONLY entry-level trainees as deserving or needing of training and career development. The concept that mid-career faculty can be replaced and are just “biding time” should have tied a decade ago, but in terms of NIH focus seems alive and quite alarmingly well. A broader focus is needed if the true goal of this office is to ‘biomedical workforce’ and not simply ‘biomedical student’

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