A Training Plan for the Next Generation of Translational Scientists in Diabetes

The explosion of knowledge in the basic biomedical sciences over the past two decades has created unparalleled opportunities for the advancement of diabetes treatment and prevention. To take maximal advantage of these opportunities, it is essential to attract the best and the brightest students, fellows, and junior faculty members to careers in diabetes research. Trainees will need to master a daunting array of research approaches and technologies and learn how to work effectively within complex teams, and they will require careful mentoring at every step along the way.

For this purpose, the DRC has created an educational infrastructure that serves as a breeding ground for future academic leaders in diabetes, with the support of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation (YCCI). The foundation of this program is Yale's Investigative Medicine Program (IMP) and the YCCI with its faculty mentors, a diverse and accomplished group of investigators who are committed to training the next generation of clinical scholars, one-half of whom are members of the DRC, reflecting the outstanding group of translational scientists conducting diabetes-related research at Yale. Central to the training efforts is the IMP, a unique PhD-granting program in Health Sciences Research approved by Yale School of Medicine and the Graduate School and headed by Joseph Craft, MD (Professor of Medicine & Immunobiology and a DRC member). IMP is designed for highly selected postdoctoral fellows in clinical departments who are committed to careers in translational research. By encouraging trainees in diabetes-related research to take advantage of IMP-sponsored didactic courses, workshops, and mentored research projects, we hope to create a unique educational environment for the training of future interdisciplinary scientists. YCCI will support these young scholars from their pre-doctoral training through their early years as junior faculty members. IMP will be the hub for didactic training of the YCCI Scholars.

To accomplish our goal a Society of YCCI Faculty Mentors has been created, chaired by Dr. Sherwin in his role as YCCI Director. Members of this group have been chosen based on the breadth, depth, and quality of their translational research, on their track records in mentoring young scientists, and on their shared commitment to develop an exciting intellectual environment for YCCI trainees. As noted, a large group of the faculty mentors are DRC members. Each YCCI Scholar selected will be guided by a three-member committee consisting of two YCCI Mentors, and a third member, who together cover the diverse disciplines related to the Scholar's thesis project. The YCCI Scholar's committee must include at least one clinical and one basic science mentor to encourage the development of collaborative projects spanning translational research. An important secondary goal will be to create new interdisciplinary connections among the faculty members who serve on mentoring committees, which we believe will lead to new initiatives in diabetes-related research. By providing new financial resources for the development of junior faculty, the CTSA-supported program will serve as a potential source for the recruitment and development of young investigators conducting diabetes-related research.

Given that there is a critical need for a much larger pool of students entering doctoral and postdoctoral programs in translational science, the YCCI supported IMP will also open its courses and seminars to all trainees in diabetes research as well as several other degree-granting programs at Yale including: 1) medical students who elect to participate in the Master's Degree program in Health Sciences funded by Yale's roadmap T32 award; 2) pre-doctoral students from the Schools of Nursing and Public Health; 3) participants in the RWJ Clinical Scholars Program; 4) pre-doctoral students pursuing the "med to grad" curriculum being developed by the Graduate Program in Biological & Biomedical Sciences (BBS); and 5) pre-doctoral students in Yale's MD-PhD Program. For such students the IMP has already developed a less intensive, but relevant, curriculum in translational research for all post-doctoral students supported by T32 grants at Yale, as well as for junior faculty in clinical departments, including all postdoctoral fellows training in adult and pediatric endocrinology and metabolism. By providing an educational home for these students and welcoming them into IMP-sponsored courses and seminars, YCCI hopes to create a pipeline for entry as YCCI Clinical Scholars. When YCCI is fully operational, it will have 30-40 YCCI Clinical Scholars as well as many other medical, nursing, and graduate students and junior faculty members participating in IMP activities, such as a monthly research-in-progress meetings, journal clubs, faculty presentations, seminars in bioethics, and dinners open to all students in the program. These activities foster informal interactions among like-minded students in training; the dinner programs are modeled on the highly successful events of the NIH-HHMI Cloister's Program.

All pre- and postdoctoral trainees supported by diabetes-related training awards as well as NIDDK-supported T32 Training Grants (see accompanying Table ) are strongly encouraged to participate in IMP and YCCI educational programs.