The NIH’s commitment to bringing young scientists into medical research has evolved over the past 4 decades to include a number of targeted initiatives for career development training and loan repayment programs. The CHRCDA Program, started in 1990 as the Child Health Research Center program, is one such initiative. This program was created to fill the gap in training of junior faculty who intend to devote their careers to academic pediatrics. The program also provides a mechanism for sustained mentoring and intense laboratory-based training during this formative period by providing protected time for research training in the laboratories of scientific leaders.
This K-12 program stands out as an unusually successful early career training program—as measured by funding rates of scholars—and has become a key resource for U.S. academic pediatric departments. Since its inception, the program has focused on the training and preparation of pediatric candidates with outstanding scientific potential. The resulting generation of physician scientists have exceptional training in both clinical pediatrics and basic science, which enables them to bridge the gap between basic science and the successful treatment of human diseases. The majority of scholars funded through CHRCDA continue in academic pediatrics (86%), and many have gone on to establish successful independent research programs and are leaders in their fields.
Several features fundamental to the success of the CHRCDA program include:
During the past 2 decades, the NICHD has funded 800 pediatric investigators, working in 15 different subspecialty areas of pediatrics, in 38 pediatric departments throughout the United States. Within this group of past awardees, there are now 125 tenured professors and 180 tenure-track associate professors. In addition, 55% of the awardees have obtained NIH funding (R, U, and K awards). Of those who have submitted an application to the NIH, 68% have received funding.
Funding for this program supported 6 centers in 1990 and increased to 19 centers by 1992. Program funding initially used a P30 mechanism and changed to a K12 mechanism in 2000. The most recent funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for the CHRCDA Program is available at RFA-HD 13-011.
The primary aim of the program is to identify and match the most talented junior faculty at each center with appropriate scientific mentors. These mentors provide the background, techniques, and tools needed to help the scholars build a foundation for becoming productive scientists and securing independent research funding.
At each center, established investigators/mentors provide expertise and make their laboratory facilities available to program scholars for research projects that will enhance the scholars' basic research skills. This experience also enables the scholars to generate preliminary data that can be included in grant applications for independent funding.