Notice of Intent to Publish: Stimulating Access to Research in Residency Transition Scholar (StARRTS) (K38)

Notice Number: NOT-HL-17-533

Key Dates
Release Date:   August 23, 2017

Estimated Publication Date of Announcement: June 2019 
First Estimated Application Due Date: October 2019  
Earliest Estimated Award Date: May 2020 
Earliest Estimated Start Date: July 2020 

Related Announcements

RFA-HL-18-023

Issued by
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Purpose

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), intend to promote a new initiative by publishing a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to solicit applications for research career development awards: Stimulating Access to Research in Residency Transition Scholar (StARRTS) (K38) for residents who have participated in a new NIH Institutional Research in Residency program (R38) described in (RFA-HL-18-023 ).

This Notice is being provided in conjunction with the FOA for the Research in Residency program: Stimulating Access to Research in Residency (StARR) (R38) (RFA-HL-18-023). This Notice provides potential applicants to the R38 program information about the K38 award which is intended to provide support for continued research and career development of residents who meet milestones within the R38 program. This NOITP allows potential applicants sufficient time to develop competitive and responsive projects.

The limited competition FOA is expected to be published in June 14, 2019 with an anticipated yearly application due date beginning on October 14, 2019.

This FOA will utilize the K38 activity code. Details of the planned FOA are provided below.

Research Initiative Details

Stimulating Access to Research in Residency (StARR) (R38)" (RFA-HL-18-023):
The purpose of this institutional program is to recruit and retain outstanding, postdoctoral-level health professionals who have demonstrated potential and interest in pursuing careers as clinician-investigators. The program will provide mentored research opportunities for Resident-Investigators in preparation for transition to individual research and career development support. The program will provide support for up to 2 years of research by Resident-Investigators in structured programs for clinician investigators with defined program milestones.

Stimulating Access to Research in Residency Transition Scholar (StARRTS) (K38) (FOA to result from this NOITP):
The purpose of this limited competition K38 program is to support individual Transition Scholars who have matriculated through the R38 (StARR) program in mentored research opportunities with experienced investigators for at least one, and up to two years, during their subspecialty clinical training period (typically referred to as "fellowship"). Transition Scholars are health professionals with medical, dental or veterinary doctoral degrees (i.e., MD, DVM, DDS, DO, MBBS or equivalent) with or without additional PhD degrees, with promise and interest in careers as clinician-investigators. In conjunction with the NIH-sponsored StARR (R38) program, the StARRTS (K38) program is designed to provide a foundation for Transition Scholars with strong interest and promise towards careers as clinician-investigators. The Transition Scholar can propose that his or her research be performed at the same, or different department/institutions, as the preceding institutional research in residency program (R38).

Investigators at this career stage have the unique responsibility to complete both clinical duties and research activities; for this reason, the proposed research activities must fall within an overall program consistent with medical board, dental or veterinary specialty eligibility.

These research projects are limited to those that fall within the participating NIH Institute/Center mission. The NIH encourages institutions to recruit and retain individuals from groups currently underrepresented in the biomedical sciences, and to enhance the diversity of the clinician-investigator workforce (NOT-OD-15-053).

Background

There is a critical workforce need for physician scientists/clinician-investigators, i.e. those with clinical experience who conduct research and offer skills and perspectives directly related to human health, disease conditions, clinical decision-making, diagnoses, prevention, and improving health outcomes.  Despite outstanding existing opportunities, relatively few physicians and other health professionals are pursuing research careers, and current opportunities may not maintain adequate numbers or diversity of physician scientists (ACD Physician Scientist Workforce Report, 2014). The overall size of the current clinician-investigator workforce constitutes only a small proportion of all NIH-funded research investigators, and this is particularly true for early-stage clinician investigators.

New approaches are needed to recruit, prepare and retain more clinician-investigators from the large pool of potential researchers with health professional doctorates.  Among today’s NIH-funded clinician-investigators, about 60% hold a single health professional degree and 40% hold both health professional and research doctorate degrees.  Women and individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups represent a particularly low proportion of this workforce. Each year in the United States, some 18,000 individuals earn an MD, while 600 individuals earn MD/PhDs; these data suggest that recruitment of even a slightly greater proportion of MDs, and retention of more MDs and MD/PhDs in research careers could significantly enhance the clinician investigator workforce.

New approaches are also needed to enhance research opportunities during advanced clinical training periods; for example, the typical graduate medical education (“residency”) period offers limited opportunities to acquire the research skills and experience needed for a career as a clinician-investigator. To enhance the research experience, several medical board-approved graduate medical residency programs have developed what are variously described as ‘fast track,’ ‘short track,’ ‘accelerated,’ or ‘research pathway’ approaches in their specialties. These programs balance protected time for research with clinical requirements, and medical boards approve either institutional programs or individual plans for board eligibility. Available outcomes indicate that the clinical competency of pathway graduates is comparable to those participating in standard residency programs. Many research pathway graduates subsequently hold positions in academic medicine, report research activity, and contribute substantial professional effort in research as clinician-investigators.

For health professionals who recognize the critical need to develop new understanding and therapeutic modalities for diseases, research in residency can provide valuable experience and an early “on-ramp” to a research career. It is also recognized that many MDs/health professionals as well as MD/PhDs have had previous research experience, and research during residency training provides an opportunity to build upon prior research experiences. Additional research and career development during subspecialty clinical training (typically called "fellowship") offers Transition Scholars essential experience in experimental approaches and additional research experience needed to enhance retention in research and competitiveness for subsequent individual research and career development awards or research project grants.

This award is designed to enhance a research career pathway for previous participants in institutional research in residency programs to individual research and career support. Health professionals who successfully completed the "Stimulating Access to Research in Residency (StARR) Program (RFA-HL-18-023) are encouraged to apply. NIH expects Transition Scholars subsequently to continue research activity, which may be supported by Institutional or Individual Mentored Career Development Awards (eg K12, KL2 or K08, K23,) or research project grant awards, depending on research background and experience.

Program Components

Transition Scholar awards to further research and career development:

  • Up to two years of mentored research and career development support with the same or new research preceptor, department or institution as that in the research in residency program.
  • An additional career sponsor who can advance the Scholar’s access to resources for career advancement through professional societies. This is intended to broaden the Scholar's professional networks.
  • Career development plan with the goal of preparing the K38 awardee to submit an application for subsequent research and career development support and/or independent research award by the end of Transition Scholar participation period.
  • Support to present research findings or attend scientific conferences and an NIH-sponsored workshop.

Awards include supplementary research funds to cover the cost of research supplies and professional development activities that will contribute to the successful completion of research:

  • Registration fees for short duration courses or workshops that provide research skills in data science, implementation science or clinical trials, as appropriate for the project
  • Funds for technical support, including biostatistics consultation and/or research technicians' time to complete research.
  • Fees for workshops on oral and written communication of research and grant writing related to the research project.
  • Funds to develop skills needed for effective research supervision and mentoring of clinician-investigators; mentoring skills should include topics such as aligning goals and expectations, effective communication, time management, mentoring for a diverse and inclusive workforce, understanding research funds flow in an academic health center, building a successful research team, job negotiation, identifying grant opportunities, navigating an IRB and/or animal protocol, as appropriate for the research project. 

Transition Scholar Compensation: The total salary requested must be based on a full-time appointment, and be consistent with the postgraduate year (PGY) salary structure at the institution. During a research year, Transition Scholars will be paid 80% of their base PGY salary level set by the institution. Transition Scholar salary will be calculated for the months of full-time research engagement over a year.

Transition Scholar Supplementary Research Funds: Up to $20,000 per research year, per Transition Scholar, may be requested for research supplies which must be justified and consistent with the stage of development of the participant and the proportion of time to be spent in research and/or career development activities. Research supplies may be used to defray costs for registration for short-term courses or workshops to obtain research skills, to support research-related supervisory and mentor skill development for clinician-investigators, or where well-justified, for technical support to contribute to the scholar’s research continuity. Funds may NOT be used for tuition for courses leading to a degree, materials leading to clinical qualifications, or equipment.

Transition Scholar Travel. Up to $2,000 each year may be requested for each Transition Scholar to attend or present research findings at domestic scientific conferences and to provide opportunities to identify and meet with a national sponsor. Requests for travel to scientific meetings or workshops must be carefully justified, with specificity. An additional $1,000 per year should be requested for each Transition Scholar to support attendance at the NIH annual workshop

Expenses for foreign travel must be exceptionally well justified.

Salary for mentors, secretarial and administrative assistants, etc. is not allowed.

Eligible Individuals (Program Director/Principal Investigator)

Transition Scholar Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI). Health professionals who successfully completed the "Stimulating Access to Research in Residency (StARR) Program (RFA-HL-18-023) are encouraged to apply. The PD/PI is invited to work with his/her mentor and organization to develop an application for support. Individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups as well as individuals with disabilities are always encouraged to apply for NIH support. Multiple PDs/PIs are not allowed.

The Transition Scholar award may occur at same or a new institution than that of the research in residency. The Transition Scholar institution must submit the materials on behalf of the candidate.

Candidates for the Transition Scholar award must have a clinical doctoral degree, with or without an additional research doctorate. Such degrees include, but are not limited to, the MD, DO, MBBS, DDS, DMD, OD, ND, DVM.

By the time of award, the individual must be a citizen or a non-citizen national of the United States or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence (i.e., possess a currently valid Permanent Resident Card USCIS Form I-551, or other legal verification of such status).

Level of Effort

While the structure of clinical fellowship training may vary among subspecialties, most begin with a year of clinical duties followed by one or two years of research activity, and this award is designed to support their research and career development during the research phase of the fellowship. During a research year, transition scholars are expected to commit at least 80% professional effort (e.g. 9.6 person-months per year) to their research and career development. Transition Scholar awardees may engage in other duties (other research, training, clinical and teaching activities) as part of the remaining effort not covered by the award, as long as such duties do not interfere with or detract from the proposed research and career development activities.

Candidates who have VA appointments may not consider part of the VA effort toward satisfying the full-time requirement at the applicant institution. Candidates with VA appointments should contact the staff person in the relevant Institute prior to preparing an application to discuss their eligibility. Under certain circumstances, an awardee may submit a written request to the awarding component requesting a reduction in minimum required percent effort, which will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Details on this policy are provided in NOT-OD-09-036.

Program Director Nomination

The director of the R38 program and the primary mentor of resident must submit a letter of nomination to confirm that the Transition Scholar fulfilled the requirements as a Resident-Investigator in the R38 (StARR) program.

Mentor, Co-Mentor, Career Sponsor

Before submitting the application, the candidate must identify a mentor who will supervise the proposed career development and research experience. Mentor(s) should have both research expertise and a successful track record of mentoring clinician-investigators. Where possible, varied clinician-investigator role models with different professional and research degree backgrounds, as well as those from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical science should have opportunities to serve as mentors and/or meet with both mentors and scholars to discuss effective research career strategies.

The mentor should be an active investigator in the area of the proposed research and be committed both to the career development of the candidate and to the direct supervision of the candidate’s research. The mentor must document the availability of sufficient research support and facilities for high-quality research. Candidates are encouraged to identify more than one mentor, i.e., a mentoring team (or advisory committee), if this is deemed advantageous for providing expert advice in all aspects of the academic and research career development program. In such cases, one individual must be identified as the primary mentor who will coordinate the candidate’s research. The candidate must work with the mentor(s) in preparing the application. The mentor, or a member of the mentoring team, should have a successful track record of mentoring individuals at the candidate’s career stage.

In addition, applicants must identify a career sponsor who will help broaden the candidate's professional networks by providing career guidance, advising about research directions and potential funding or research opportunities, promoting the applicant for national presentations, and provide a clinician investigator career role model.  The career sponsor may be affiliated with the fellowship institution or another institution and is expected to be involved with one or more professional societies important for the Transition Scholar's career as a clinician investigator (e.g. Society of Black Surgeons, American Hematological Society, Association for Women Radiologists, American Society for Clinical Investigation).

Institutional Environment

The applicant institution must have a strong, well-established record of research and career development activities and faculty qualified to serve as mentors for clinician investigators.

APPLICATIONS ARE NOT BEING SOLICITED AT THIS TIME.

Inquiries

Please direct all inquiries to:

Neil Raj Aggarwal, MD
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Telephone: 301-827-7820
Email: neil.aggarwal@nih.gov

Mark Damico, Ph.D.
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Telephone: 240-276-5630
Email: Mark.damico@nih.gov

Shawn Gaillard, Ph.D.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Telephone: 240-627-3857
Email: Shawn.gaillard@nih.gov