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Understanding Career Success and Its Contributing Factors for Clinical and Translational Investigators

Robinson, Georgeanna F.W.B. EdD; Schwartz, Lisa S. EdD, MS; DiMeglio, Linda A. MD, MPH; Ahluwalia, Jasjit S. MD, MPH; Gabrilove, Janice L. MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000979
Research Reports

Purpose: To understand the factors that facilitate career success for career development awardees in clinical and translational science and reconceptualize understand ing of career success for this population.

Method: In 2013–2014, the authors conducted semistructured interviews with former NIH KL2 or K12 scholars from nine Clinical and Translational Science Award–funded institutions. Participants either had or had not secured independent funding at least two years after the end of their last K award. Questions covered the factors that facilitate or hinder junior investigators’ transition to independent funding. Interviews were recorded and transcribed, and the transcripts were analyzed thematically.

Results: Forty individuals participated, with equal representation by men and women and by independently and not independently funded investigators. Personal factors that facilitated success included networks, persistence and resilience, initiative, autonomy, and personal and professional balance. Organizational factors included appropriate mentorship, protected research time, and institutional resources and support.

Even independently funded participants described challenges regarding career direction. Five participants without independent funding modeled a broad spectrum of successful career paths, having assumed leadership positions not reliant on grant funding. Alternative definitions of career success included improving public health, enjoying work, seeing mentees succeed, and receiving external acknowledgment of successes.

Conclusions: Awareness of the factors that facilitate or hinder career success can help junior faculty, mentors, and institutional leaders support career development in clinical and translational science. New definitions of career success are needed, as are career paths for faculty who want to engage in research in roles other than principal investigator.

G.F.W.B. Robinson is assistant director, Institute for Clinical Research Education, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

L.S. Schwartz is assistant research professor, Department of Clinical Research and Leadership, and associate director of research education, training, and career development, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Children’s National Health System, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC.

L.A. DiMeglio is professor of pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Endocrinology/Diabetology, Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana University School of Medicine, and director of career development, Indiana University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, Indianapolis, Indiana.

J.S. Ahluwalia is dean, School of Public Health, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

J.L. Gabrilove is James F. Holland Professor of Medicine and Oncological Sciences and associate director of education and training, Tisch Cancer Institute; and director, Clinical Research Education Programs, and codirector, KL2 Scholars and PORTAL Programs, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, New York, New York.

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at

Funding/Support: This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health: UL1TR000005 and KL2 TR000146 to the University of Pittsburgh, UL1TR000075 to Children’s National Health System/George Washington University, 1UL1TR001108-01 to Indiana University, UL1TR000114 to the University of Minnesota, and UL1TR000067 to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: The University of Pittsburgh institutional review board deemed this study exempt (PRO13010214). All participating institutions either obtained approval from their respective institutional review boards or did not need it because data collection and storage took place at the University of Pittsburgh.

Disclaimer: The content of this report is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Correspondence should be addressed to Georgeanna F.W.B. Robinson, Institute for Clinical Research Education, 200 Meyran Ave., Suite 300, Pittsburgh, PA 15213; telephone: (412) 864-3024; e-mail:

© 2016 by the Association of American Medical Colleges