The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has just made a career in CAM research more financially accessible to acupuncturists and other CAM practitioners.The NCCAM, a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has created a career development award for selected CAM clinicians who wish to pursue a career in research. The award, titled The Bernard Osher Foundation/NCCAM CAM Practitioner Research Career Development Award (K01), was created in partnership with The Bernard Osher Foundation through a grant the foundation provided to the NIH. The specific purpose of the K01 award is to provide research training support for CAM practitioners with clinical doctorates, who have had limited opportunities for research training, but possess a strong desire to pursue a career in CAM research. K01 recipients will undergo up to five years of intensive research training in the biomedical, behavioral or clinical sciences related to CAM.
According to the program announcement, the long-term goal is to encourage more CAM practitioners to enter research careers, thus enriching CAM research through their experience and knowledge of CAM practice. According to Dr. Partap S. Khalsa, program officer of NCCAM's division of extramural research and training, this career development opportunity could be an ideal fit for new doctors of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, for example, who are more interested in a career in academia than private practice. The official program announcement, including a complete overview, is available on the NIH Web site.
Setting this award apart from other research grants handed out to medical scientists and academics, The Bernard Osher Foundation/NCCAM CAM Practitioner Research Career Development Award is intended exclusively for CAM practitioners who hold a professional doctoral degree from a CAM institution, such as doctors of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, doctors of naturopathic medicine, and doctors of chiropractic, as well as doctors of osteopathy from medical institutions that teach manual manipulation as part of the core curriculum. Individuals with a research doctorate, such as a PhD, or a conventional clinical doctorate (MD) in addition to their CAM clinical doctorate, are not eligible for K01. Also, record of prior NIH support might impact an applicant's eligibility.
Applicants must be U.S. citizens or noncitizen nationals, or lawfully admitted for permanent residence, and must have a "full-time" appointment at the academic institution that is the applicant institution. Thus, a minimum of 75 percent of full-time professional effort must be committed to conducting research and relevant career development activities. The remaining 25 percent of effort can be divided among other research, clinical and teaching activities, but only if these activities are consistent with the candidate's development into an independent research investigator and the goals of the K01 award itself.
Many CAM practitioners express interest in pursuing research; however, the majority of those interested have accrued a high level of financial debt at the completion of their training. And research stipends for graduate students typically are meager. A unique aspect of the K01 award is that it provides salary support at a level comparable to starting salaries - up to $75,000 per year - for those practicing with one of the aforementioned professional degrees. Salary will be awarded based on the candidate's application evaluation, reflecting the candidate's proven financial need and projected budget.
There is no limit to the number of awards that could be given. The NCCAM could conceivably fund as many applications as it finds qualified. It's anticipated that 10 awards will be presented over the next three years.
Research candidates will be ex-pected to collaborate with a mentor who, together with the applicant, is responsible for the planning, direction and execution of the program. Mentors must show extensive and appropriate research experience, and provide annual evaluations of the primary researcher's progress throughout the proposed research career development plan. While the primary mentor's research need not focus on CAM per se, the mentor must have an appreciation of CAM and work with the candidate to develop a research training program that will provide the applicant with the experience to become an independent researcher.
Primary mentors of successful K01 award candidates subsequently will receive support from The Bernard Osher Foundation through a separate, $40,000 award, independent of K01. Therefore, the mentor's support should not be included in the initial budget.
All applications will be assigned a priority score, receive a written critique and receive a second level of review by the NCCAM National Advisory Council. The initial scientific review will address and consider each of the criteria below in assigning the application's overall score:
- career development plan;
- research plan;
- training in the responsible conduct of research;
- appropriateness of and statements by former mentor, co-mentor(s), consultants(s) and collaborator(s); and
- environment and institutional commitment to the candidate.
"We are extremely pleased to have this opportunity to join forces with The Osher Foundation in addressing one of the NCCAM's primary goals - creating a cadre of well-trained CAM researchers," said Dr. Margaret A. Chesney, acting director of the NCCAM. "This program provides yet another mechanism through which the Center can collaborate with the CAM community to foster the next generation of leaders in this field."
Based in San Francisco, The Bernard Osher Foundation supports three integrative medicine research centers at the University of California, San Francisco, Harvard University, and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. "Because of our high regard for Dr. Stephen E. Straus, the founding director of the NCCAM, we are particularly pleased to promote the future of integrative medicine research through this new award," said Bernard Osher, founder and treasurer of the Osher Foundation.
- NCCAM press release. "NCCAM and The Bernard Osher Foundation Announce New Career Development Award." Oct. 5, 2006.
- Program Announcement. "PAR-07-003: The Bernard Osher Foundation/NCCAM CAM Practitioner Research Career Development Award (K01)."
- Johnson, L. NCCAM Press Team. Personal communication via e-mail.