This post-doctoral training program is sponsored by the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, & the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center. It is a mentor-based interdisciplinary program across seven medical school departments that trains both M.D.’s and Ph.D.’s for one to two years in research broadly related to diabetes, endocrinology, metabolism, and nutrition. It has been in existence since 1973 and has been responsible for training over a hundred Ph.D.’s, M.D.’s, and M.D./Ph.D.’s, most of whom have gone on to research-related careers in academia, government, or industry. The goal of the program is to provide post-doctoral fellows with the necessary knowledge and skills to perform independent research at the faculty level upon completion of their training.
Strong emphasis is placed upon recruitment & selection of trainees with superior records who have expressed or demonstrated commitment to research careers. Because the program is supported by an NIH training grant, only applicants who are US citizens or permanent residents can be considered. Applicant interests may be in areas of basic science, translational research, or clinical research. The program has four positions, typically split evenly between Ph.D.’s from basic science departments and M.D.’s from clinical departments. Recruitment of Ph.D.’s differs from that of M.D.’s, since the latter have prior residency training in internal medicine, surgery, or pediatrics. Ph.D.’s are usually recruited to the program by application to individual preceptors. On the other hand, M.D.'s are typically recruited to Vanderbilt University by the clinical departments as part of a sub-specialty training program. The clinical department or division then submits the application for research training to the DRTC post-doctoral training program.
Research training is offered across a variety of disciplines & disease-oriented research. These include hormone action in humans as it relates to diabetes, animal models of disease, islet biology, intermediary metabolism, micronutrient effects on metabolic disease, metabolic regulation, molecular genetics of metabolic diseases, clinical research in diabetes & obesity, & translation of diabetes care delivery. Research projects are designed by the trainee & preceptor. Many of the training faculty in the basic sciences have projects that translate directly to human biology or disease, & many preceptors the clinical departments have research programs that are firmly rooted in the basic sciences. Collaborative projects with researchers in the basic science departments are arranged if they can provide the trainee with new skills necessary for their main project.
This is a mentor-based program in that research training is provided in the laboratory of one or more of the approximatelythirty preceptors who support this program & who are also members of the Vanderbilt DRTC. For Ph.D.’s, the mentor is decided before application to the program. For M.D.’s, the mentor may be selected before or shortly after entry into the training program. Clinical training for M.D.’s in clinical departments can continue during their research training years, but this is limited to less than twenty % of their time. Trainees are expected to form a mentoring committee in the first month of training derived from faculty with related research interests. The role of this committee is to help guide the research of the trainee. The committee will meet in the first six months & later as needed. The trainee is also expected to prepare an individual fellowship application during the first year to develop skills in grant writing & to attempt to obtain individual funding. Funding for individual stipends comes from the T-32 training grant (NIH DK007061), with supplements by preceptors or departments to bring the salary level to that determined by Vanderbilt University, which depends on years of previous post-doctoral training. Also provided are family health care benefits & a travel stipend to attend appropriate research meetings.
All trainees are encouraged to consider alternate degree programs as part of their training, such as study leading to the Master in Public Health or Master in Clinical Science Investigation offered at the Vanderbilt University. The program is also enriched by the presence of numerous core facilities at Vanderbilt & under the DRTC. These include the Vanderbilt Clinical Research Center, where both inpatient & outpatient research may be performed, & Diabetes Center-supported cores which provide assays (hormones, metabolites, oxidant stress molecules), develop knock-out or transgenic mice, & assist with complex metabolic phenotyping of research animals. Mandatory training is also provided in the ethical conduct of research, biohazards & safety. Finally, the program is enriched by the activities of the Vanderbilt Diabetes Center, which include training in core facilities, a weekly research speaker program, and an annual Diabetes Day symposium where trainees present their work.