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Apply now, find out more about the Butler-Williams Scholars training program

Carl V. Hill
Carl V. HILL,
Director, Office of Special Populations,
Office of the Director (OD)
.

The Butler-Williams Scholars Program provides unique opportunities for junior faculty and researchers who are new to the field of aging to gain insight about research on aging from a number of perspectives. I invite you, if you are one of those researchers, to apply to the program to learn about:

  • how to apply for NIA research resources
  • NIA funding priorities and different types of grants
  • NIH funding policies

The week-long program includes lectures, seminars, and informal small-group discussions. Conversations focus on the design of studies related to aging research across the spectrum—from basic biology to neuroscience, behavioral and social science, clinical geriatrics and gerontology and health disparities research related to aging.

This year’s Butler-Williams Scholars Program takes place on July 25-29 on the NIH campus in Bethesda, MD. The application deadline is March 25.

The program is sponsored by NIA with support from the National Hartford Centers of Gerontological Nursing Excellence. Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine

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Dr. Jane Jih, University of California, San Francisco

Recently, I had a chance to catch up with a recent graduate of the program. Dr. Jane Jih—B-W Scholar in 2015—is an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). After attending the program, Dr. Jih received a GEMSTAR award from NIA to sustain her interests in aging research.

I spoke with Dr. Jih about her experiences with the Butler-Williams Scholars Program.

What are your current research interests?

My research focuses on diet and obesity-related chronic diseases among aging minority and immigrant populations, particularly Asian Americans. My goal is to study the social determinants of health that contribute to disparities in these chronic diseases and to address the disparities by designing and testing interventions that bridge the community and clinical settings.

How did you first learn about the Butler-Williams Scholars Program?

I learned about the program when I was a research fellow at the UCSF Center for Aging in Diverse Communities. The faculty, including the director, encouraged me to apply as I was starting to shift my research program to include a focus on minority aging. I had previously spoken with other Butler-Williams alumni and they all mentioned the important connections they made with NIA staff and with other junior researchers from throughout the country.

What components of the program did you find most useful?

It was great to meet a group of junior researchers from different fields, all with a shared interest in aging research. I also enjoyed hearing directly from the alumni about their career trajectories and how the program had contributed to their success. The program also helped me better understand the NIA grant application process and I was encouraged by the program’s emphasis on health disparities in aging populations. Participating in a mock review was very valuable; I got practical insight into the peer-review process and how decisions on priority scores are made. Another useful part was the opportunity to meet with a program officer in my research area to discuss my ideas.

How have you used information from the Butler-Williams Scholars Program to move your career along?

Before I attended the B-W Scholars Program, the idea of applying for NIH funding was daunting. The program provided a lot of practical knowledge about the different types of grants available, and the faculty really encouraged us to apply for NIA funding. (My favorite pearl: “If you do not apply, you do not get funded.”) I also feel that the connections I made have been valuable to my professional and career development. I’ve kept in touch with other scholars and we have discussed potential future collaborations. It was also great to meet and build relationships with NIA program officers and staff. It was wonderful to see how approachable they are and how they really are here to help, especially the new and early investigators. It’s been great to see familiar faces from the B-W Scholars Program at conferences and to reconnect.

What advice would you offer to Scholars who participate in the 2016 program?

The B-W Scholars Program is such a high-value experience. If you are lucky enough to be accepted, you should network with your fellow scholars during lunch, dinner, and breaks between sessions. These interactions will help you develop your research ideas and may bring new opportunities and directions. And don’t forget the research ideas that you’ve been thinking of putting in a NIA grant application—the in-person consultation from NIA program staff is so valuable.

I think that many other B-W Scholars alumni would agree with Dr. Jih about the value of the program to their research careers. We encourage anyone who believes that they qualify to apply for the 2016 class! The deadline for applications is March 25.

We welcome comments from alumni or others for this year’s crop of potential applicants.