Robert McLean, DSc, MPH, is an assistant research scientist at the Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research in Boston, and his primary research interests lie in the epidemiology of osteoporosis and related fractures. After working in epidemiology for over 10 years, Dr. McLean recently established himself as an independent investigator without significant prior research experience, thanks to the help of an REF research award designed specifically for early career investigators.
At the suggestion of his mentor, Marian T. Hannan, DSc, MPH, Dr. McLean submitted an application for the 2008 ACR REF Health Professional New Investigator Award—now the Rheumatology Scientist Development Award—and was pleased when he received notice that his proposal had been selected for funding. “As a graduate student, I completed a preceptorship through the REF program. Even as a grad student, I became involved with the world of rheumatology through networking with other REF-funded scientists and getting to know what it means to conduct research in rheumatology. Once I did reach investigator status, the first award I received as an independent investigator was the REF award. It gave a kick start to my career because it’s difficult to get funding these days, and this was a great opportunity,” explains Dr. McLean.
He is grateful for the REF’s support, saying, “Without the development award, I could’ve been stuck without my own independent funding and having to depend on other investigators to protect the time to actually write grants and publish papers. So I’d be a bit behind right now and would not have had the time to put together a larger [National Institutes of Health] grant that I now have under review … It’s so important to apply and receive my own funding, which I can put on my CV at this stage of my career.”
Dr. McLean encourages others to look into funding opportunities available through the REF because it has funding mechanisms available specifically to support investigators involved in musculoskeletal research.
About the Award
The ACR REF Rheumatology Scientist Development Award is a mentored postdoctoral fellowship program that provides support for rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals in the early stages of their career. The goal of this program is to provide an opportunity for young scientists to embark on focused research training that will allow them to be competitive for the next level of career development awards. Through this award, the REF provides a means for ensuring more qualified, highly trained investigators enter the field of rheumatology. Applications are available online at www.rheumatology.org/REF/Awards. The application deadline is August 2, 2010.