Director's Corner

December 2018 Update on the NICHD Strategic Plan and Other Activities

Posted on 11/29/2018

mother, father, and sonThe NICHD Strategic Planning process is moving forward. Our Divisions of Extramural Research (DER), Intramural Research (DIR), and Intramural Population Health Research (DIPHR) have been reviewing the roughly 50 scientific themes prioritized by the Strategic Planning Working Group in mid-October. I have been pleasantly surprised by the high level of alignment between the NICHD teams and external working groups. An important component of this next phase is identifying gaps in existing research not identified in the October meeting. The internal working teams’ end goal will be to consolidate a draft set of themes that will be forwarded to the internal strategic planning working group for further consideration.

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Update on the NICHD Strategic Plan and Other Activities

Posted on 10/31/2018

mother, father, and sonI'm happy to report that NICHD held its first Strategic Planning Working Group meeting on October 15 and 16. The strategic planning process will allow internal and external stakeholders to review the institute's research portfolio to refocus its science and encourage new collaborations to improve the health of the populations we serve. Working Group members included representatives from academia, the health care sector, patient and advocacy communities, and NICHD and other federal agencies. Participants discussed more than 250 proposed scientific themes. Based on the group's deliberation, approximately 50 themes were prioritized for further review and consideration.

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Inclusion is the Path to Personalized Care

Posted on 5/16/2018

multi-generational familyWe are at the very early stages of personalized medicine, the idea that treatment can be targeted to meet an individual's medical needs. However, if large segments of the population aren't included in clinical studies, the results of our research—and the scope of personalized approaches—will be limited.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) conducts and supports research involving several underrepresented populations: pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and people with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. Together, these groups are estimated to comprise more than half of the U.S. population. For more than 50 years, NICHD has supported research that spans preconception through adulthood. This is the core of our mission.

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Crowdsourcing to Understand Typical Pregnancy Experiences

Posted on 2/15/2018

PregSource logoLike many first-time moms-to-be, Carey Tang has multiple pregnancy apps on her phone, and she regularly searches the Internet for information. But like the rest of us who mine the web to enhance our knowledge, she often has trouble separating fact from fiction.

Ms. Tang, who is in her second trimester, works in fundraising for the Children's Hospital Foundation, part of the Children's National Health System, which supports doctors, nurses, and scientists in advancing pediatric medicine. She understands that for all we know about treating disease, there is much we do not yet know about health. For example, for pregnant women, health care providers do not yet have answers to some very basic questions. What if we could collect information about the typical experiences of pregnancy and the impact of pregnancy on the long-term health of the mother?

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Improving Odds of Success for Young Researchers

Posted on 1/16/2018

group of young researchersNICHD training and career development programs are critical to helping young researchers advance in fields relevant to the institute's mission. Our commitment to these programs was echoed with the December 2016 passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which called for NIH to provide opportunities for new researchers and promote earlier research independence. For decades, NICHD has sought to help young scientists acquire the knowledge and experience necessary to conduct independent research, and we are always looking for the best, most efficient way to accomplish this goal.

Historically, NICHD support for training has remained steady at 5 to 6 percent of the extramural budget, a level we plan to maintain. Within our portfolio is a mix of institutional grants (T32s and K12s), which universities use to develop training programs, and individual grants (Ks and Fs), which trainees use to propose specific research projects under the supervision of a mentor. When we analyzed our training programs and compared them to other NIH institutes, our results were striking: In fiscal year 2014, our institutional K12 programs occupied nearly 40% of our training portfolio; this far outweighed the investments of other NIH institutes.

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