Declining numbers of pediatric physician scientists prompted the NICHD to create the Child Health Research Career Development Award (CHRCDA) Program in 1990. The goal of this K-12 program is to establish "Centers of Excellence" in pediatric research. This program was created to fill the gap in training of junior faculty who intend to devote their careers to academic pediatrics. The K-12 program provides funding for sustained mentoring and laboratory-based training, and provides the vital foundation to compete for grant funding.
Funding for this program began in 1990 with support of 6 centers and increased to 19 centers by 1992. Initially, the program was founded as the Child Health Research Center Program. 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.
During the past two decades, the NICHD has funded 780 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 122 tenured professors and 180 tenure-track associate professors. In addition, 55 percent of the awardees (called scholars) have obtained NIH funding (R, U, and K awards).
A Model for Training
The remarkable success of past scholars demonstrates that these individuals go on to successfully compete for research funding. A majority of the scholars have remained in academic pediatrics and, through their independent research programs, they have trained countless undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral trainees who have contributed substantially to knowledge of childhood diseases. Many hold important leadership positions in their fields.
Several features have contributed to the success of the CHRCDA Program:
- Effective management by the program director at each center, including the competitive trainee selection process and ongoing guidance and support to scholars and mentors
- Focus on training junior investigators within 4 years of completing their pediatric subspecialty training who often have minimal prior basic science research experience
- The requirement that awardees train in basic science and are encouraged to seek mentors in laboratories outside of their pediatric department
- The pursuit by each scholar of a unique program based on past training experiences and future research and career goals
- Mandatory annual external program review
- The requirement that program mentors must have a notable past track record for successfully mentoring trainees
- The annual CHRCDA meetings that include current scholars, program leadership, and the NICHD program director at which scholars present their work and receive guidance and feedback
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.
- Children's Hospital of Boston
- Children's Hospital Medical Center (Cincinnati, OH)
- Children's Hospital of Los Angeles
- Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
- Children's National Medical Center (Washington, DC)
- Duke University
- Emory University
- Indiana University―Purdue University at Indianapolis
- University of California, Los Angeles
- University of California, San Francisco
- University of Colorado School of Medicine
- University of Iowa
- University of Michigan
- University of Minnesota Medical School
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
- University of Rochester Medical Center
- University of Texas Southwestern Medical School
- Washington University School of Medicine
- Yale University