Dr. Byrd is D. Warren Brown Professor of Leukemia Research, Professor of Medicine and Medicinal Chemistry at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital.

The Clinical Research Training Institute prepares hematologists for careers in patient-oriented clinical research. The yearlong education and mentoring program focuses on the foundation, methodologies, and applications of clinical research. The program begins with an intensive week-long summer workshop in California, where participants work from their own proposed clinical research projects and refine and revise their plans through formal and informal interaction with faculty.

The Hematologist:Why is the Clinical Research Training Institute important?

Dr. Byrd: Doing clinical research in the field of hematology has become increasingly complicated given the complex scientific, economic, and regulatory environment we are now in. Outstanding training and teamwork among clinical, translational, and basic scientists will be essential to fully attain the clinical potential of scientific advances made in the field of hematology. The Clinical Research Training Institute extends from the recognition of the ASH leadership that specialized training in clinical research is necessary to be successful in academic medicine. An essential component of this, as one begins his or her academic career as a hematologist, is the identification and completion of high-impact projects under the guidance of an experienced, caring mentor. The program expands this opportunity to allow external review of these research ideas with respect to both protocol development and career-development grants by a cadre of experienced hematology faculty members with diverse backgrounds. Concomitant with this, an intense interactive didactic lecture series is focused on aspects of clinical research, manuscript preparation, grant application strategies, career development, and issues relevant to senior fellows and junior faculty members focused on clinical and translational research. Unlike other research courses, the Clinical Research Training Institute does not end after the week of training but continues throughout the year with interaction between the students and faculty as they develop their projects.

The Hematologist:What do you hope the participants gained from this year’s program?

Dr. Byrd: I hope that, with their local mentor’s guidance, they will be able to launch a successful academic career as clinical-translational investigators in hematology. I also hope that they gained insight that will help them balance different components of their careers with other personal life goals.

The Hematologist:Who is eligible to attend the Clinical Research Training Institute?

Dr. Byrd: Individuals who are in their second year of fellowship through three years post fellowship are eligible.

The Hematologist:Is the application process difficult?

Dr. Byrd: The application process is relatively simple. It includes information about your short- and long-term goals, letters of support, a summary of the clinical project you intend to develop during the week-long program, and bibliographic sketches of you and your mentor. Your project should have a high probability of moving forward to a true clinical protocol. As with all other grant applications, it is important to review the application carefully and follow the rules put forth in the application. Additionally, it is important to include information about your mentor’s involvement and commitment.

The Hematologist:I’m in my institution’s CTSA K12 program; why should I apply for the Clinical Research Training Institute?

Dr. Byrd: The Clinical Research Training Institute provides contacts and input into your career development from more than 20 hematology faculty outside of your institution. All of these individuals have “made it” in academic hematology and are vested in seeing the next generation of hematologists be successful. During the close interactions, these faculty members will share formally through the didactic lectures and informally through discussions/activities how they have navigated difficult issues most relevant to hematologists. These faculty members will not only do their best to help you during the week-long program, but often they will write letters of support for applications, promotions, etc. that are important in your long-term career progression. Also, the experience of refining your protocol, career-development plan, and specific aims for a possible NIH K23 or K08 application during the week you are at the Institute will certainly help you in the submission of career-development grants that often provide for extended salary support (3-5 years). Many program officers from hematology-relevant funding agencies, including NIH Centers and Institutes, will be at the Institute.

The Hematologist:In what ways does the Clinical Research Training Institute help prepare you as a clinical researcher?

Dr. Byrd: The program trains you to be a critical, analytical clinical scientist. It helps you to plan and pursue research questions that are focused and readily answerable. You will work on developing a realistic clinical protocol and creating a career development plan and specific aims for a future K23/K08 grant submission. Your small-group leader will continue to work with you throughout the year to provide advice.

The Hematologist:Tell me about the mentoring participants receive at the Institute.

Dr. Byrd: The mentoring provided by faculty extends from detailed protocol development, grant critiques, career-guidance advice, and realistic mapping of a career in hematology with typically expected benchmarks. Many students continue to actively engage their mentors in grant application and protocol development throughout the entire year they participate in the program and beyond.

The Hematologist:Please talk a bit about the small working groups and the importance of these.

Dr. Byrd: The small groups are very important because the students work together in conjunction with the faculty members and statisticians to improve each protocol as they are reviewed and critiqued. Students talk about challenges they have at their institutions, and often solutions come forward not only from the faculty but also from other students.

The Hematologist:How is the Clinical Research Training Institute assessed for effectiveness?

Dr. Byrd: The Clinical Research Training Institute is best assessed by how students graduating from prior classes have ultimately done with respect to publications, competition for peer-reviewed grants, and promotions at their institutions as clinical-translational academic hematologists. Many of the students have met these goals with numerous high-impact papers coming from previous classes, and many have gone on to receive career-development grants from NCI, NHLBI, and private foundations. These data are tracked. The Clinical Research Training Institute is also evaluated by different committees in ASH based on feedback from the students and faculty. This is coordinated in great part through ASH staff (Joe Basso and others) and the senior co-chairperson; this year it is Michael DeBaun, MD, MPH, from Washington University. Dr. DeBaun has done an incredible job of planning this year’s program, and it has been an honor to learn from him for the upcoming year, in which I will serve as senior co-chairperson.