Fogarty marks decade supporting research fellowships

July / August 2014 | Volume 13, Issue 4

Over the past 10 years, Fogarty's international clinical research fellowship program has influenced the careers of hundreds of young scientists, sparking their interest in global health by enabling them to conduct hands-on research in developing countries. Many have emerged committed to pursuing global health careers and with initial study results that have formed the basis for fundable grant applications.

NIH Director Francis Collins mingles with Fogarty fellows and scholars alumni and participants, ribbon reads celebrating 10 year
Photo by Bill Branson/NIH

NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins hears how Fogarty's
Scholars and Fellows program encouraged
participants to pursue global health research careers.

Several hundred Fogarty alumni and current participants gathered at NIH recently to celebrate the program's 10-year anniversary. NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins joined the festivities and thanked the fellows for their dedication and desire to change the world.

"One of my highest priorities at NIH is to try and encourage health research not just domestically but globally," Collins said. "You are ambassadors making that vision a reality in amazing ways."

Since 2004, nearly 800 early-career U.S. and foreign scientists have received Fogarty fellowships to conduct studies on topics as diverse as surgical capacity in Rwanda, mental health in Indian slums, sexually transmitted diseases in Peru and cervical cancer in Zambia. Through such research collaborations, they have produced scientific discoveries and formed partnerships that may last a lifetime.

The experience can be life-changing, Collins told this year's fellows, adding that his own stint as a volunteer in West Africa altered his entire world view. "You're going to be asked to do things that you probably will feel you're not prepared for, but you are there, being called on," he said. "You'll build a sense of who you are. In particular, you'll build a sense of what the world is about and how much your talents are needed to make the world a better place."

NIH Director Francis Collins and Fogarty Director Roger Glass speak at podium at fellows and scholars anniversary celebration
Photo by Bill Branson/NIH

NIH Director Dr. Francis S. Collins and Fogarty
Director Dr. Roger I Glass greeted Fogarty Fellows
and Scholars program alumni and current participants
during an event to celebrate the program's 10-year
anniversary.

Fogarty's Global Health Program for Fellows and Scholars provides a year of training and research experience for young investigators at a time when they are still carving out their career plans and can consider a potential pathway that includes research. Participants are from a wide range of fields, including medicine, public health, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine and other health sciences.

Research projects, which in the program's early years focused on HIV and other infectious diseases, now include noncommunicable conditions, such as trauma, mental illness, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. So far, fellows and scholars have conducted research at more than 60 sites in over two dozen countries. The program receives funding and other support from 17 other NIH Institutes, Centers and Offices and is administered by a consortium of 20 academic institutions.

During the orientation for the new participants, a number of alumni shared stories of how their fellowships prepared them for research careers and helped them secure positions and funding to continue their work. After his Fogarty Fellowship, Dr. Satish Gopal obtained two Fogarty career development awards and is now supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and other funders for his studies in Malawi. Meanwhile, former program participant Dr. Magaly Blas went on to earn a Fogarty Global Research Initiative Program (GRIP) grant. Today, she holds professor positions in Peru and the U.S., has obtained additional NIH funding and is mentoring a current Fogarty fellow researching sexually-transmitted diseases.

"It helps you to have that first research grant and focus on what you want to do," Blas said. "One thing led to another. There are many opportunities and you cannot imagine which doors will be open."

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