Supporting Yourself and Your Trainees During the Coronavirus Pandemic – Online Workshops

Headshot of Dr. Sharon Milgram
Sharon Milgram, Ph.D., Director of NIH OITE

While we all want to be highly productive during this period of self-quarantine, the reality for us and for our trainees and research staff may be very different. We are stressed, they are stressed, and all of us are dealing with unique issues that impact our ability to be productive at this time. 

My mission, as the director of NIH’s Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE), is to help trainees (summer interns, postbacs, grad students, and postdocs) in the NIH Intramural Research Program develop career and professional skills that will help them succeed on all career paths in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. My concern goes beyond just thinking about trainees in NIH’s intramural program. Just last week, I had the honor to talk with the NIH Director, Dr. Francis Collins, about NIH trainees. Parts of our discussion focus on NIH’s intramural program, but his message of hope and NIH’s concern for trainees is universal. I also spoke last week with grad and postdoc office leadership across the US to share concerns and strategies.

Since the advent of social distancing a few weeks ago, all of us have had to work through policy issues, help trainees work through their stress, and identify ways to continue to support their learning while not in the lab. For me in my position, and I am sure for many of you, this has also meant needing to rise to the challenge and adapt programming to meet trainee needs.

Tomorrow my office is hosting a workshop on Supporting Yourself and Your Trainees During the Coronavirus Pandemic that is open to all. In this workshop we will provide PIs, program leaders and research group heads with insights and strategies for supporting themselves, their trainees and staff during this difficult time.  

In addition, we are putting together a panel discussion with mental health experts to help the directors of postbac, graduate student and postdoc offices best support trainees during these uncertain times. The panel discussion will be taped and the discussion will address questions submitted in advance. You can submit questions for the panelists in advance here.  The panel discussion will be taped on Friday April 17, 2020 and up-loaded for viewing by April 21. We will plan follow up discussions based on feedback from the community once this resource is disseminated.

We have been working quickly to develop a robust program of virtual workshops we are scheduling each week. We hope your students and postdocs will join us. We will be putting on new programming each week. They can find information by visiting the OITE website of Virtual NIH Activities for Trainees Outside the NIH, and on Twitter @NIH_OITE and @SHARONMILGRAM. After the workshops, the videos will be closed-captioned and posted as quickly as possible on the NIH OITE YouTube Channel for later viewing.

Also, if you wish to join us and your students in the NIH OITE weekly wellness challenge, follow us on Twitter @NIH_OITE and @SHARONMILGRAM. I am trying to post wellness tips daily in addition to updates on our programs.

Right now our trainees need our support more than ever. Working together we can support them though this difficult time.


  1. NIH OITE Coronavirus (Covid)-19 scientific initiatives are well-timed for eventually diminishing the growing pandemic amongst susceptible multiethnic populations worldwide, including both American and Asian, etc. genetically distinct subsets.
    Biomedical trainee-mentor strategic timeline based objectives and career development professional continued education series are certainly essential coupled with awareness-based brainstorming sessions for developing cost-effective clinical management protocols in both high as well as low-resource setting.

  2. Dear Dr. Milgram,
    I hope one of the things you will consider is extending the June deadline for submission of K awards. While trainees and mentors have been working diligently for months to a year to make this deadline and it seems like we should be prepared to submit, there are many moving parts that are out of our control. This is something I’ve heard from many senior investigators across the country who mentor new investigators trying to submit their career awards.

    Mentors have been busy helping all of their trainees to pivot on their existing projects & grants. Unforeseen revisions must be made. All of the mentees’ mentors must provide biosketches, LOS, and contribute to training plans, however many are now working long hours on the front lines and this is not something we feel comfortable “bugging” them for. Needless to say some of the mentees are also on the frontlines and being called upon during times that they had set aside for grant writing.

    Mock reviews in one’s university are required and many reviewers are simply not available to do the work or meet with the mentee in a timely way. Internal grant officers are scrambling with unforeseen work requirements/responses to NIH about existing grant budgets.

    And needless to say everyone is having to do this from home without their normal resources, quiet time to think/write as most have children and family to care for, home school, provide for etc.

    So I am hopeful this message gets to you and you will do what you can to provide some additional time for trainees to submit for the June K award deadline. Thank you for considering this request.

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