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Enhancing the Complementary and Integrative Health Research Workforce

Introduction and Explanation of Need

NCCIH is committed to training researchers with the expertise needed to conduct successful basic, mechanistic, translational, clinical, and implementation studies on complementary and integrative health approaches. Researchers from many different scientific disciplines possess critical knowledge and technologies required for in-depth investigation of the basic biological, physiological, and clinical effects and safety of complementary health approaches and their integration into conventional medicine. As detailed on our training webpage, NCCIH supports a range of research training and career development programs aimed at increasing the number and diversity of well-prepared, skilled investigators with knowledge and expertise in both complementary and integrative health interventions and state-of-the-art research methods. The 2021⁠–⁠2025 NCCIH Strategic Plan includes Objective 4: Enhance the Complementary and Integrative Health Research Workforce, with two primary strategies:

  • Support research training and career development opportunities to increase the diversity and number of well-trained scientists conducting rigorous, cutting-edge research on complementary and integrative health practices.
  • Foster interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships at individual and institutional levels.

NCCIH supports training and career development of investigators pursuing research topics that are well aligned with our scientific strategic objectives. We seek to support trainees across career stages pursuing basic, mechanistic, translational, and clinical science on natural products, mind and body practices, and/or multicomponent approaches. We are particularly committed to the development of a complementary and integrative health research workforce that is representative of the diversity in American society, in support of NIH’s Interest in Diversity. In addition to enhancing the diversity of our research workforce, the Center is also focused on supporting career development of clinician-scientists, including conventionally trained physicians, complementary health practitioners, and other health care professionals (e.g., clinical psychologists, nurses) who are interested in complementary and integrative health research. This includes both individual-level training for clinician-scientists and fostering institutional-level interdisciplinary partnerships to facilitate cross-training and interdisciplinary research teams. We also seek to promote the success of NCCIH-funded trainees as they progress to the next steps of their scientific careers and to identify best practices to continually improve our training and career development portfolio.

What Does Success Look Like?

  • Increased diversity of researchers engaging in complementary and integrative health research to enhance participation of individuals from groups that are underrepresented in the biomedical, clinical, behavioral, and social sciences, as described in the Notice of NIH’s Interest in Diversity.
  • An expansion of clinician-⁠⁠scientists in the NCCIH training and career development portfolio representing a diverse range of clinical training expertise.
  • Support of institutional-level interdisciplinary collaborations that support cross-training and development of interdisciplinary teams focused on complementary and integrative health research.
  • An improved career pipeline that produces more NCCIH-funded trainees, fellows, and early career development awardees who successfully compete for subsequent NIH or other Federally funded research awards.
  • The NCCIH training and career development portfolio spans all career stages of basic, mechanistic, translational, and clinical science, as well as research training in natural products, mind and body practices, and/or multicomponent approaches.
  • NCCIH evaluates its training and career development activities and retools any underperforming activities.

Priorities

  • Enhance outreach and communication activities to promote existing and new training and career development funding opportunities to a variety of communities (e.g., complementary and integrative health clinical institutions, minority-serving institutions, trainees from backgrounds underrepresented in biomedical research, interdisciplinary professional organizations).
  • Support training and career development funding opportunities that align with NIH’s Interest in Diversity (e.g., participation in trans-NIH efforts to promote diversity, such as the Maximizing Opportunities for Scientific and Academic Independent Careers (MOSAIC) program; enhancements to existing administrative supplement programs; development of new initiatives).
  • Support training and career development funding opportunities for clinician-scientists at several levels of career development (e.g., participation in trans-NIH efforts to support clinician-scientists; expansion of existing NCCIH-specific administrative supplement programs, such as the KL2 administrative supplement).
  • Support funding opportunities to establish institutional collaborations that facilitate research training and the development of interdisciplinary research teams (e.g., participation in trans-NIH efforts to create cohorts of interdisciplinary scientists, such as the NIH Common Fund Faculty Institutional Recruitment for Sustainable Transformation (FIRST) program; development of new initiatives such as the creation of virtual resource centers to facilitate research collaborations between complementary and research-intensive institutions).
  • Develop materials (e.g., blogs, enhancements to the NCCIH website) and hold workshops to support NCCIH-funded trainees as they transition from one career stage to the next.
  • Promote applications in specific topic areas to balance the training and career development portfolio across career stages (e.g., encourage fellowship applications from trainees interested in mind and body clinical research that uses secondary data analyses and/or proposes an experience within a mentor’s clinical study to enrich translational science training and career development proposals).
  • Perform regular evaluations of training and career development activities (e.g., regular evaluation of application rates, funding rates, and appropriate performance markers for all training and career development activities).