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.