Thanks to everyone who applied to serve as an AUPN delegate to the AAMC Council of Faculty and Academic Societies (CFAS). We had the difficult task of choosing from a number of highly qualified applicants. Congratulations to our new delegates: Sanjay P. Singh, M.D., Chair of Neurology at Creighton University School of Medicine, and Jun Li, M.D. Ph.D., Chair of Neurology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. We look forward to their service in representing the AUPN and in forging a closer relationship with the CFAS and AAMC.
Basic Neuroscience Research was intertwined with clinical research and clinical neurology in the beginning of the modern era of medicine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With the birth of the NIH beginning in the late 1950s and early 60s, basic science research in medicine began an exponential phase of growth, which ultimately resulted in the creation of separate departments covering the biomedical sciences in many institutions. The origins of neuroscience as a separate discipline are often traced to the 1970s, after which it exploded as a field, ultimately becoming the largest discipline in all of biology over the last 20 years. Older departments of neurology which lived through this history often have substantial basic science components and laboratories integrated into their operations, while departments which came into their own in more recent times frequently evolved in tandem with a separate Neuroscience Department within their institutions, and therefore may have less basic science activity among their faculty.
With the decline of clinical revenues beginning in the 1990s (which were typically used to cross subsidize both clinical and basic research), already prestigious NIH grants assumed even greater hegemony over other sources of research funding, aided in part by the generous indirect cost allocations which accompanied them, and also their substantial influence over medical school rankings (such as those of the U.S. News & World Report). Consequently, NIH funding has now become the coin of the realm in the eyes of many Deans. Since NIH funding is disproportionately allocated to basic scientific research, this has led many departments of neurology without basic science operations to consider establishing them, often with the strong encouragement of senior leadership.
Although a laudable goal, it is important for departmental leadership to recognize the considerable challenges of establishing a department core of basic science research from scratch, as well as the resources required. Recruitment of well-established NIH investigators with significant funding is a costly proposition, as they are able to command pricey startup packages and other concessions in the current environment. Furthermore, there is usually great competition from other suitors for these individuals, which often results in bidding wars, driving costs even higher. To start from zero and recruit an entire team of NIH funded faculty is an order of magnitude more expensive, and the funding required is typically well beyond the means of individual clinical departments. Central resources (typically from the Dean and/or the University) as part of a well thought out strategic plan for programmatic creation, is therefore essential. The Dean’s help is also usually needed in navigating the political headwinds from basic science departments, which are often unenthusiastic about basic science faculty being placed anywhere other than with them. However, if the Dean is behind you politically and financially, and the institution also recognizes this as a critical part of their strategic plan and is willing to invest the required resources, it is possible with concerted effort.
Alternatively, it is also possible to start small and organically grow basic science operations within your department, usually by recruiting junior faculty with aspirations to become clinician scientists who are just beginning their careers, and by developing residents or fellows interested in doing post-doctoral training and then remaining on faculty. Of course, this is a much slower process spanning many years, and also requires startup support to underwrite these individuals until they can become independently grant-funded. These start-up funds usually come from the department or central institutional resources, or from faculty development awards such as the NIH Research Career Development (K) awards. This strategy requires you have existing faculty within your department or institution willing to train and mentor these individuals.
There are a number of resources on the web for training and early career grants at the NIH, the Society for Neuroscience, and at the American Brain Foundation (all linked below) In addition, many subspecialty and some advocacy societies provide grants of this kind directed at the diseases they focus on.
If you have not already done so, don’t forget to register for the AUPN and ANA virtual fall meetings at the below links. We look forward to seeing you there! (Early Bird registration ends Sept. 8th).
Clifton L. Gooch, MD
Today’s Resource Links
Basic Science Training and Faculty Development Awards
NIH Research Career Development Awards: https://researchtraining.nih.gov/programs/career-development
Society for Neuroscience Early Career Awards: https://www.sfn.org/careers/awards/early-career
American Brain Foundation: https://www.americanbrainfoundation.org/for-researchers/
Registration: AUPN & ANA Fall Meetings & Career Fair
Register for the AUPN Meeting at AUPN Meeting Registration, and for the ANA meeting at 2020.myana.org. Due to our shared virtual platform, you must register for the ANA meeting to be able to register for the AUPN meeting. AUPN registration is a member benefit at no extra charge and ANA Meeting registration is free for ANA members this year (join the ANA at ANA Membership). ANA-AUPN Career Fair registration (fee) is at https://2020.myana.org/program/sessions/ana-aupn-career-fair
AUPN’s Leading Edge Podcast (Free)
AUPN’s Leading Edge will focus on issues of interest and practical use to Neurology Department Chairs, and will be freely available on Apple’s iTunes, Spotify and Google. AUPN’s Leading Edge first episode preview segment is here:
Apple & iTunes