This is an exciting time for women's health research in our country. New opportunities for research and funding have emerged in the last decade and continue to grow. NIH-supported research training and career development initiatives at UTMB include the NIH BIRCWH K12 research career program for assistant professors and the NIH/NRSA T32 postdoctoral program.
The Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health Program (BIRCWH K12) was obtained in 2005. The NIH renewed the program for a 3rd cycle of funding in September 2015. This program provides 75% salary support and protected time for 3 assistant professors to participate in mentored research experiences in women’s health. Unlike the other K12 programs at UTMB that limit eligibility to candidates with MD degrees or from a single discipline, the UTMB BIRCWH program accepts faculty applicants with MD, MD/PhD, and PhD degrees from a wide range of disciplines. The BIRCWH program seeks to develop investigators from many training backgrounds, who will be comfortable and productive in interdisciplinary research teams. Using the mentoring team approach, the program has trained 21 BIRCWH Scholars to date and is in its 14th year of funding.
The NIH/NRSA T32 has supported 21 postdoctoral fellows during 11 years of funding (2008-2019). The T32 program in women’s reproductive health supports postdoctoral fellows for a 2 year appointment. Now in its 11th year, most of this program’s former participants have advanced in academic standing and many have achieved sponsored support for their research activities. Of the 20 former postdoctoral fellows who participated in the program from 2008-2017, 65% remain in academia and 50% have obtained tenure-track faculty positions at UTMB, UTHSC Houston, UT El Paso, University of Florida Jacksonville, University of Illinois Chicago, Perdue University, Iowa State University, and Xavier University of Louisiana. Overall, 90% advanced in research related positions in industry, academia, and medicine. In addition, 75% of former postdoctoral fellows from Cycle 1 (2008-2013) who are now in faculty positions have been successful in obtaining extramural funding as Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator. Equally impressive is that, during the 11 years of the program, 21 postdoctoral fellows Cycle I and Cycle II produced 82 unique manuscripts in 41 peer-reviewed journals, with 57/82 (70%) first author positions filled by a postdoc. In addition, they presented 73 unique abstracts at national meetings. This high level of productivity is exemplary and helped trainees obtain their subsequent research or research-related positions. During the 5 completed years of Cycle II alone, 8 trainees produced 36 manuscripts in 18 peer-reviewed journals. They presented 36 abstracts at national meetings. This shows that productivity has flourished under the team mentoring approach.
The Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health will continue its efforts to develop and enhance this field by providing postdoctoral fellows with travel supplementation, developing new collaborations of scientists, and providing awareness of funding opportunities in women's health.