Pearls of Wisdom: Experts Lead Career Activities at ENDO2015

Early Career Activities at ENDO 2015 will highlight the ins and outs of getting published, finding a mentor, and so much more that you probably weren’t taught in medical school.

Like many young scientists and physicians, Stephen R. Hammes, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Rochester in New York, felt uncertain about his next steps after completing his education at Duke University, Durham, N. C. “I was disenchanted with medicine and wanted to forgo residency and go straight into a postdoc position,” he explains.

Fortunately, a mentor intervened. Warner Greene, an MD and PhD himself, reassured Hammes that residency would be a completely different experience from medical school. “I took his advice,” Hammes went on, “and, in fact, he was right on.” Now a clinical director, he says he cannot imagine life without both a research and a clinical practice.

The advice of experienced mentors, such as Greene, has proven critical to the success of up-andcoming researchers and practitioners time and time again. To help the next generation of endocrinologists navigate the complexities of their chosen vocation, the Endocrine Society is hosting a number of early-career activities at the 98th Annual Meeting & Expo (ENDO) in San Diego, Calif., from March 4 – 8, 2015.

Each day includes Career Development Workshops on topics ranging from “Setting Up and Managing Your Lab” to “Promotion and Tenure.” The sessions are moderated and led by experts in each area, who can share tips and lessons from their professional lives.

Putting the “Me” in Mentor

Alice Chang, assistant professor in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, Diabetes, and Nutrition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., will provide her insight during a “Mentorship” workshop, co-sponsored by the Women in Endocrinology. She has learned from personal experience that aspiring endocrinologists need to take an active role in establishing and maintaining meaningful mentorships.

“If I could talk to myself in the past when I was first starting out as a trainee, I would tell myself to get involved with career development programs andworkshops early on,” Chang says. Although she regrets waiting until her last year of training to take advantage of such activities, she still managed to assemble an impressive roster of mentors.

One of the most formative bits of advice she received came from Milton Packer, chair of the Department of Clinical Sciences at UT Southwestern. He taught Chang that, “We are the CEO of our own career.” She felt empowered by this notion, which inspired her to put less emphasis on finding a singular “super mentor” and instead focus on finding the people that could help build her “company.”

One of Chang’s first research mentors, Richard Auchus, MD, PhD, now a professor at the University of Michigan, introduced her to networking at poster sessions at ENDO back in her fellowship days. “There was no question too big or too small, and he is my favorite person to edit papers and grants,” Chang says. Even though they are at different institutions today, he continues to provide guidance for her work. “Each time, I learn something new about writing.”

She also emphasizes the value of the bonds she has formed through the Women in Endocrinology group. “Th ey have not only off ered important advice on transitions during my career but are certainly responsible for nominating me for positions and opportunities through the Endocrine Society,” Chang explains.

During the workshop, she will be moderating a panel of senior mentors within Women in Endocrinology. The featured speakers come from a wide range of backgrounds. Chang is the most junior participant, providing her with a unique perspective on the subject.

“We give panelists a few minutes to describe their own experiences as mentee and mentor, focusing on key elements of mentorship, including: how to choose a mentor, types of mentors, spheres of mentorship, mentoring networks, how to structure the mentoring relationship to optimize trainee success, gaining independence from your mentor, mentorship through career transitions, and the value of mentors at every stage of your career,” Chang expounds.

She believes that the workshop will answer the many questions that trainees and junior faculty frequently have and worry about when it comes to finding the right mentors. “We focus on the important goal of providing a roadmap of what they need during their career from a mentor or team of mentors.”

Award-Winning Tips

Joy Wu, assistant professor at Stanford University in California, and the director of the Stanford Osteoporosis and Metabolic Bone Disease Clinic, has defined her career path largely through the encouragement and wisdom of mentors. “Th e best advice I ever received was to select a lab based on the mentor rather than a project,” she claims.

According to Wu, a great mentor teaches his or her trainees to craft a research proposal that addresses impactful questions. Mentored awards offer great opportunity to augment professional relationships while pursuing one’s scientific interests.

Experienced researchers like Wu know the best practices for winning such awards and will be sharing them at the Career Development Workshop titled, “How to Write a Successful Career Development Award Application” on March 7th from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.

Among other accomplishments, Wu has received the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Clinical Scientist Program Instructor Development Award from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, the Clafl in Distinguished Scholar Award from Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Merck Senior Fellow Award and the Endocrine Scholars Award from the Endocrine Society.

Along with other professors who have either been awarded or mentored a career development award, Wu will share her personal knowledge with research and clinical fellows who intend to apply for similar honors. The lecturers will provide a large amount of information on the steps of preparation. The focus is on K grants from the NIH, but the general advice may be applied to many types of mentored awards.

“In particular, my talk will discuss the steps in planning and applying for basic science K grants (K01, K08, and K99/R00), while a separate session is designed for those with an interest in patient-oriented research,” Wu explains. She will help provide a comprehensive overview of the qualities of a successful career development award. “We will guide potential applicants through the process of identifying the right award, then review how to design a research proposal, and finally emphasize the importance of a clear career development plan to transition to independence.”

Wu claims that the first critical step requires identifying a mentor who can provide rigorous research training, has a strong track record of launching the careers of junior faculty, and has sufficient resources to support the tutelage.

“Start planning early,” Wu says, “as a successful application depends upon evidence of productivity.” In cooperation with one’s mentor, she recommends developing a research plan that provides a gradual independent direction for one’s own research interests. “Begin writing early in order to leave enough time for critical feedback and plenty of rewriting,” she advises.

Wu warns applicants to avoid underestimating the importance of the career development plan. “Unlike investigatorinitiated research grants that are predominantly focused on the quality of the research proposal, mentored career development awards place strong emphasis on outlining a clear training plan with a path to independence,” she explains.

Held simultaneously with the presentations by Wu and her contemporaries, a workshop on “Writing a Successful R01 or Other Independent Research Grant Application” is also available at this year’s meeting.

All That’s Fit to Print

Central among the career development activities at ENDO 2015 is the all-day Early Career Forum on Wednesday, March 4 from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm. Endocrinologists from scientific, clinical, and industry backgrounds will converge at the convention center to bring clarity on a breadth of topics, from “Careers in Government and Science Policy” to “Developing Clinical Teaching Skills.” The forum, which costs $125, includes speakers such as Hammes, who will host a session titled “Tips for Getting Your Work Published.”

“The forum as a whole is just a terrific opportunity for trainees to learn the ins and outs of starting a career in basic or clinical research, whether it be in academics or industry,” Hammes says. Young endocrinologists will have the opportunity to learn from experienced mentors who all have a strong interest in career development and in teaching and mentoring trainees.

The Early Career Forum divides into audiences interested in basic science or clinical practice for most of the day to allow trainees to interact with peers on a similar career path. Additionally, this arrangement consolidates leaders in each field into lectures and discussions that illuminate the important distinctions between research and clinical tracks.

“For my presentation, I just hope that I can clear up some of the mystique of publishing papers and offer the trainees some advice from somebody who has experience from all sides — as an author, as a reviewer, and editor,” Hammes explains.

He does not intend to make a formal presentation but instead lead a discussion. “I use the time to create a forum whereby young investigators can ask me any questions regarding publications, from timing to content to target journals,” Hammes went on. He will also field questions about grant writing and other related aspects.

Hammes offers a few major tips as a preview of the talk. The first theme is timing. “When to publish is very important,” he says. “Some people publish too early when the story is incomplete. However, most people err on the other side — waiting too long into their careers before getting out their publications.” Whether a trainee or junior faculty, he believes that knowing when to publish is essential.

Once ready to submit, the next important question is where to go. “There are so many journals and so many issues, such as impact factor or journal focus,” Hammes adds.

After acceptance, it is equally important to respond appropriately to criticism. Manuscripts are rarely perfect on the first go-around, and humility must be exercised when facing constructive criticism.

This skill should be exercised outside of papers as well. “Learning to deal with people, especially conflict, is never formally taught but is perhaps the most important skill for any job,” Hammes says. “Some institutions now off er lectures or courses that address this, and I wish that I had learned more as a trainee.”

Maximizing the Meeting

Being personable will especially benefit early-career endocrinologists at the 98th Annual Meeting & Expo. “Swallowing one’s nervousness and getting out to meet people is really important,” Hammes says. He knows that most senior scientists love talking to trainees, but the trainees need to make the first step to initiate a conversation. “Get names, get cards, and then follow up with emails after the meeting” he advises.

Wu agrees. “Take the opportunity to advance your own clinical or research interests — identify posters from research groups in your fi eld, and then stop by to chat with the presenters.” Th is allows one to meet peers who are performing exciting research. “You can learn a lot about research methods, novel research directions, and potential research labs this way,” she went on.

Chang thinks that there is no better place to find mentors, peers, and valuable career guidance than ENDO. “For many of us, the Endocrine Society is our scientific and career home,” she says. “No matter what your focus or what type of career you would like to develop, this meeting is a tremendous opportunity to meet people who can help you with your science, your clinical interests, and advancement in your career.”

Each year, she comes up with a plan for how to get the most out of the meeting — focusing on which sessions to attend and where she can meet people. Th is usually includes poster sessions and mingling after oral presentations. “Discuss with your mentors and colleagues who might be helpful for you to meet,” Chang says. As a part of this exercise, one should prepare an “elevator pitch” so that he or she can describe their interests and background in a couple sentences.

ENDO 2015 offers numerous additional careerbuilding and networking activities that are detailed on the conference website (www.endocrine.org/meetings). Even individuals who are unsure of where to focus their professional ambitions should immerse themselves in these events. Uncertainty, and even change, is a normal part of medical and scientific occupations.

“A career in science and medicine is ever evolving,” Chang explains. “Although we emphasize trying to grow a career and learn as much as possible as early as possible, it should not be an intimidating process, but an enjoyable journey.” She encourages trainees to know that no decision or career path has to be permanent. She was a primary care physician, a hospitalist, and a writer for a consumer medical website before she pursued an endocrinology fellowship, a master’s in science in clinical science, and finally a research career.

“It is also important to be persistent and realize that the trajectory of your career does not have to be a straight line and no change is permanent,” Chang says. Whether seeking a new path or just starting out, the career development activities at this year’s meeting are formulated to assist endocrinologists in maneuvering the topography of this diverse specialty.

— Mapes is a Washington, D.C. – based freelance writer and a
frequent contributor to Endocrine News. She wrote about the
“Plan B” pill and overweight women in the August issue.

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