Children are exposed to multiple environmental hazards?toxic chemicals, social stressors, and the hazards of the built environment. Research indicates that early-life environmental exposures contribute to common pediatric diseases (asthma, learning disorders, birth defects, obesity) and to diseases in adult life. Yet few pediatricians are trained to diagnose, treat, or prevent diseases of environmental origin, and few academic health centers have research programs in environmental pediatrics. The IOM states that there is a national need to expand the scientific workforce in environmental medicine, and new NIH initiatives (CHEAR and ECHO) have emphasized that children's environmental health is a research priority. Thus, there is a clear need for scientists trained in the principles and methodologies of environmental pediatrics. To address that need, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine seeks renewal of its 3-year, interdisciplinary, post-residency/post-doctoral research training program in environmental pediatrics that began in 2007. Two new fellows are admitted per year. Selection is highly competitive, and fellows are a mix of clinically trained pediatricians and doctorally trained research scientists. In year 1, focus is on education training in epidemiology, biostatistics, toxicology, and environmental medicine, and an MPH degree is granted concentrating in epidemiology. In years 2 and 3, emphasis shifts more toward mentored research that produces publications, meeting presentations/posters, and fosters transition toward independent research with an emphasis on K award applications. We provide fellows with a strong methodological base in environmental health principles and a versatile set of skills and resources that they can apply to study a wide range of scientific questions. Each fellow is guided by a mentoring team of clinical and basic scientists. Courses and experiential training are provided in grant writing and responsible conduct of research. Supervised clinical experience in environmental pediatrics is offered to ensure that research training is grounded in clinical translational principles. Formal evaluation of each fellow is conducted semi-annually. An Executive Faculty Committee and an External Advisory Board are already in place. Expected outcomes include authorship of 1-2 research manuscripts, authorship of 2-3 posters or platforms at national meetings, development in year 2 of a K grant proposal, and evidence of transition toward independent investigator status. This program builds on a unique base of children's environmental health research, including a Child Health Exposure Assessment Resource (CHEAR) Lab Hub, the CHEAR Data Center, an NIH P30 Core Center, nearly a dozen child health research cohorts, a Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit, and a unique Exposome Lab that specializes in exposure biomarkers. In the past 9 years, our program has successfully recruited 19 fellows and graduated 12 (6 are active). Five have secured NIH funding. Graduates are currently faculty UC-Davis, NYU, U of Cincinnati, Mount Sinai, as well as working at CDC and for Industry. Our graduates have published over 70 papers in 9 years.
The goal of this research training program is to provide post-residency/post-doctoral research fellowship training in environmental pediatrics to a select cadre of clinically trained pediatricians and doctorally trained research scientists. In order to expand the scientific workforce in environmental medicine, we prepare these physicians and researchers to become clinician-scientists and future academic leaders in the emerging field of environmental pediatrics.
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