Washington Update

NIGMS Council Emphasizes Community Engagement

By: Yvette Seger
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Community engagement was a recurring theme throughout the recent meeting of the National Advisory General Medical Sciences Council. From the extensive discussion of the evaluation of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Native American Research Centers for Health (NARCH) Program to career development opportunities highlighted throughout the Director’s Report, programs offered by NIH Institutes and Centers, including National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), depend upon communication and outreach with appropriate audiences to maximize effectiveness and success.

The goal of the NARCH Program Evaluation was to identify ways to improve the efficiency of the program in meeting the health research needs of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations. NARCH is a trans-NIH program managed by NIGMS; grants are awarded to federally recognized tribes and/or tribal organizations. While the initial Working Group review indicated that NARCH was meeting current stated objectives, there was agreement that the program uptake and outcomes could be strengthened through more active engagement of AI/AN populations. This was reinforced by both the NIH Tribal Advisory Committee and throughout the formal Tribal Consultation. As a result of this extensive consultation process, NIGMS intends to continue funding the NARCH program at or above current levels as well as implement additional programs to enhance research capabilities of Tribal nations and organizations.

In his opening remarks, Jon Lorsch, PhD, NIGMS Director, highlighted several upcoming events intended to engage scientists of all career stages in research supported by the Institute. The September 29 Judith H. Greenberg Early Career Investigator Lecture will feature a presentation by Elizabeth Johnson, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences on the role of lipids in host-microbiome interactions. The event will be broadcast via NIH Videocast; students and trainees are encouraged to register to attend via Zoom so that they can participate in the live question and answer session with Johnson.

The first meeting of the Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) Program – a unique initiative intended to facilitate the transition of promising postdoctoral researchers from diverse backgrounds to research-intensive faculty positions – is scheduled for October 14 – 15. The event, which will be videocast from 1 to 5 pm ET both days, will feature scientific presentations by the inaugural cohort of MOSAIC scholars as well as panels about NIH-supported opportunities for early-career scientists in academia and at NIH.

Finally, October 20, NIGMS will host Trevor Bedford, PhD, Associate Professor in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, to present his work on the evolutionary dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 for the annual Stetten Lecture. This event will also be broadcast via NIH Videocast.