Medical Research Fellowship:
Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Program
Program Coordinator: Lee Rager
BIRCWH Administrative Coordinator
Magee-Womens Research Institute
204 Craft Ave., A334
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
The National Institutes of Health’s Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) program at the University of Pittsburgh was developed in 2003. The BIRCWH medical research fellowship program aids young faculty who are planning careers in fundamental, clinical, epidemiological, or health services in women’s health research.
The BIRCWH program provides excellent interdisciplinary research training in women’s health to as many beginning investigators as possible with the goal of improving women’s health research. Scholars funded by the medical research fellowship program are encouraged to obtain alternative K funding and when successful, to continue to participate in the BIRCWH career development program activities. In addition, the BIRCWH has recruited many University of Pittsburgh research leaders to become actively involved in the program through membership on the Advisory Committee.
Admission to the BIRCWH medical research fellowship program is highly competitive, allowing us to select an exceptional group of scholars committed to careers in women’s health research. The eight scholars trained in the initial funding period (selected over three application rounds from among 19 qualified candidates) submitted 33 grant applications (23 funded, including five from the NIH), published 38 peer-reviewed papers, and presented 45 abstracts at national meetings. These scholars have served as mentors for eight medical students, 11 residents, and nine fellows.
Application Process for BIRCWH Medical Research Fellowship Program
The purpose of this program is to support the development of young faculty members as independent investigators with research interests in the field of women’s health, including fundamental, clinical, epidemiologic, or health services research. Because of the focus on progression to independence, the prospective candidate for this medical research fellowship program should propose a period of study and development consistent with previous training and career development needs.
Candidates must have the potential to develop into independent researchers. A BIRCWH scholar will be supported for a minimum of two years. Annual renewal will be considered, as dictated by a review of the progress towards scientific independence.
Eligibility for BIRCWH Medical Research Fellowship Program
- All candidates for this medical research fellowship program must have earned a doctoral degree, or equivalent, and hold or be scheduled to start a faculty appointment within the University of Pittsburgh’s six Schools of the Health Sciences (Graduate School of Public Health, School of Dental Medicine, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and School of Pharmacy).
- A candidate from non-Health Sciences schools such as those in the Department of Psychology or Neuroscience within the School of Arts and Sciences will be considered if he or she is eligible for a secondary appointment within the Schools of the Health Sciences.
- A candidate must have identified a primary mentor from the University of Pittsburgh who has extensive research experience in the general area of the candidate’s interests in women’s health. Multiple interdisciplinary mentors (mentoring teams) are encouraged.
Eligible candidates include:
- Applicants currently being recruited for faculty positions may apply under the auspices of the prospective division chief/department chair. As stated above, acceptance into the program will be contingent upon successful appointment to an appropriate faculty position.
- Applicants currently serving as faculty members within the six Schools of the Health Sciences may apply directly to the program.
The candidate must devote a minimum of 75 percent of full-time professional effort conducting research and developing his or her research career. Candidates must be U.S. citizens or non-citizen nationals or must have been lawfully admitted for permanent residency by the time of the award. Individuals on temporary or student visas are not eligible. This grant is for the development of junior faculty, usually at the Assistant Professor level. This program does not support bridge funding for established faculty members who are between funding cycles. Women and minorities are especially encouraged to apply.
Mechanisms of Support for BIRCWH Medical Research Fellowship Program
BIRCWH will provide salary and fringe benefits for the career award recipient. The total salary requested must be based on a full-time, 12-month staff appointment. BIRCWH will provide up to 75 percent of the salary to a maximum of $100,000. The scholar’s home department must supplement the BIRCWH salary contribution to a level that is consistent with that department’s salary scale. Departmental supplementation of a salary must not require duties or responsibilities that would interfere with the purpose of the BIRCWH or the requirement that 75 percent of the recipient’s effort be spent on women’s health research or related career development activities.
The department supporting the candidate must be able to demonstrate a commitment to the development of the candidate as a productive, independent investigator. The candidate’s department must agree to cover 25 percent of his or her salary and to contribute to any other necessary expenses in excess of the $100,000 NIH limit. This agreement is needed to ensure that the junior investigator has a salary commensurate to that of other junior faculty in the relevant department, to ensure provision of the appropriate technical support and supplies necessary to establish a productive research program, and to ensure that the total funds allocated to support each young investigator are within the program guidelines. In addition to salary and time, the department must provide office space and appropriate research space for program recipients.
Research Objectives of BIRCWH Medical Research Fellowship Program
As mentioned, at least 75 percent of the recipient’s full-time effort must be dedicated to the goals of this award. The remainder may be devoted to clinical or teaching responsibilities or to other research efforts. Because of the focus on progression to independence as a researcher, candidates must propose a period of study and career development consistent with his or her previous research experience. This may include exploratory activities to incorporate areas of scientific interests outside the candidate’s immediate area of specialization; that is, the development of a multi-disciplinary research program. The candidate and the mentor are jointly responsible for the preparation of the plan for this program. Preference will be given to candidates who demonstrate an interdisciplinary approach to women’s health research.
Candidates must name a primary mentor, who, together with the applicant, is responsible for the preparation, direction, and execution of the program. The mentor should be recognized as an accomplished investigator in the proposed research area and have a successful record in training independent investigators. Multiple mentors are encouraged to facilitate interdisciplinary research.
Checklists for BIRCWH Medical Research Fellowship Program
- BIRCWH Program Application
- Curriculum vitae (CV)
- NIH biosketch
- Certificate of Human Subjects and Research Integrity
- Two (2) letters of reference (from those familiar with applicant’s research)
- Letter from departmental chair detailing institute support of candidate if funding is required.
- Research plan (not to exceed 10 pages) to include:
- Research training and career development plan
- Research plan: a) Specific aims, b) Background and significance, c) Progress report/preliminary studies, d) Research design and methods
Please email Lee Rager with the above required application materials.
- Letter of support
- NIH biosketch
- List of five trainees/mentees (include name, dates)
- Description of past research and current research efforts
- Certificate of Human Subject and Research Integrity
- Training plan for applicant
Please email Lee Rager with the above required application materials.
Review process and consideration
The Leadership Council of the BIRCWH Medical Research Fellowship Program will review all completed applications.
- Candidate: Potential of the applicant for a successful, independent career in women’s health research.
- Importance of the research proposal and likelihood of obtaining subsequent funding. (Ideally, a candidate will have submitted at least one application for non-BIRCWH funding by the end of the second year as a BIRCWH scholar.)
- Career development plan
- Quality of mentors and mentoring plan
- Research proposal
- Additional considerations are designed to ensure a diverse pool of scholars. These include: a) Broad recruitment of candidates with emphasis on minorities, b) Attempts to achieve diversity (research interest, discipline, gender, ethnicity, etc.) of the scholars
We are currently working on the online application feature. In the meantime, please email Lee Rager with the above required application materials.