The Infection and Immunity NRSA post-doctoral training program based at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) has an outstanding record of training investigators at the cutting edge of research in infectious diseases and immunity for the past 16 years. Trainees in the program will be at the postdoctoral level and a mixture of MDs and PhDs each supported for 2 years for a total request of 3 stipends per year. This program is the sole NRSA at BCM or the Texas Medical Center that supports the breadth of research training in infections and global health, and one of very few programs in this region of the US. Superb training opportunities exist at BCM in a number of areas. Participating faculty mentors have strong records of federal funding and training experience. Areas of focus include: 1) enteric pathogens; 2) vaccine development and testing; 3) HIV; 4) tropical medicine and public health; 5) bacterial pathobiology and treatment; 6) microbiome and functional genomics; and 7) immunology. Total current grant support in for the projects participating in this NRSA Program is approximately $52.9M. The Program offers three training tracks: 1) laboratory-based research, 2) patient-based research, and 3) global and public health research. The Program Co-Directors are Thomas Giordano, MD, MPH, and Mary Estes, PhD, who oversee and administer the program. Associate Program Director Robert Atmar, MD and Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, round out the Executive Committee. Selection of trainees is performed by the Selection Committee, which includes the Executive Committee and three other program faculty. Excellent training in translational team science is supported by the structure of the program. Both MD and PhD trainees have a primary and co-mentor (one an MD and one a PhD), have an individual research advisory committee, must prepare a written research proposal to be defended to the research committee, and have yearly reviews that include academic and career assessment. Core training activities for all MD and PhD trainees include developing an IDP, taking courses on clinical investigation, grants and contracts, and human subjects research; participating in team science and career development seminars; and attending a monthly research- in-progress seminar series, a weekly journal club, and a yearly scientific retreat. All trainees must present at these meetings. The Adult and Pediatric Infectious Diseases Training Programs at BCM and other Departments participating in this NRSA have shown they can attract highly qualified, training-grant eligible postdoctoral trainee candidates including underrepresented minority candidates. Twenty-two trainees have completed training supported by this award to date; all but one remain in a research or research-related career. These graduates have been awarded a total of $7.9M in external federal funding. Forty four percent of the trainees appointed in the last funding period are members of underrepresented minority populations. The program is a critical pipeline for researchers and academicians in the US South and continuation of the program at three slots per year is warranted.
The persistent threat to health posed by infectious diseases mandates that the United States continue to train a diverse and sophisticated cadre of biomedical investigators with the research and clinical skills necessary to develop and implement new strategies to diagnose, prevent and treat them. This NRSA has successfully accomplished these training objectives and holds great promise to continue along this vital path.
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