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Building Research Career Pathways in Complementary and Integrative Health

August 19, 2014
Alberto Rivera-Rentas
Alberto Rivera-Rentas, Ph.D.

Program Director
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

As NCCAM’s Training Officer for research training and career development, I have unique opportunities every week to interact with complementary and integrative health researchers at all career stages—from people who are exploring a research career all the way up to research faculty who contact me for advice. NCCAM supports a variety of predoctoral and postdoctoral training opportunities at universities and other institutions across the country. I would like to tell you more about them.

The Center is committed to research training and career development that prepares individuals to conduct innovative research in areas of relevance that will advance its mission. We provide a variety of opportunities aimed at

  • Supporting NCCAM’s goals, including its research priorities, and
  • Expanding the base of well-prepared and skilled researchers in the field of complementary and integrative health.

This effort ties to Strategic Objective 4 in the NCCAM Strategic Plan and is pursued through a variety of NIH funding mechanisms. Broadly, these consist of

  • Institutional Research Training Awards to institutions that have well-established laboratories and investigators offering research training at the graduate and/or postgraduate levels in research areas relevant to the Center;
  • Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award fellowships at the pre- and post-doctoral levels;
  • Mentored Career Development Awards for (1) new and junior investigators aiming to become independent investigators in complementary and integrative health research, and (2) established investigators exploring a change in research field or interested in mentoring young investigators in NCCAM’s areas of research interest; and
  • Training-related supplements designed to increase the diversity of the biomedical workforce, support the reentry into research of investigators who have had a career hiatus, and provide research training to complementary and integrative health practitioners.

NCCAM also participates in NIH’s Loan Repayment Program, which repays part of the student loan obligation of awardees who commit to conducting qualifying research for a period of time. Our programs provide opportunities to form a pathway at all research career levels, and it is our expectation that participants and trainees will move on to become successful NIH-funded independent investigators.

We are planning a webinar on October 30, 2014 to answer questions about fellowships. More details will be available soon. Please consider subscribing to receive NCCAM Update or emails on “Resources for Researchers” for updates. In addition, I will be presenting a seminar on “Training and Career Development Opportunities at NCCAM” at the fourth Annual Conference on Integrative Medicine for the Underserved, in Portland, Oregon, on September 5, 2014. Please visit the training and career development section of the NCCAM Web site to learn more about all of the research training opportunities available through NCCAM.

If you have received a training or career development grant from NCCAM, how has it impacted your career?


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Wonderful!! I am a new graduate student studying Health Education however I am disappointed that the colleges do not seem to have complimentary or alternative medicine studies. I do not agree with all the man made medications and am in fact proof that they are not all they are cracked up to be. After many years of morbid obesity, high blood pressure, diabeties type 2, high cholesterol and Doctors just kept giving me more and more medications or uping dosages. A little over a year ago I just stopped it all..I took matters into my own hands. I began buying my own insulin over the counter, monitoring my own blood glucose, adjusting dosages of insulin, etc. I also began working with herbs and total diet recreation. I am now 110 pounds lighter, normal blood pressure, cholesterol of 50 and went from 120 units of insulin per day to 24units per day. I would like to work with the obsese, bariatric patients and their  families, once they leave that doctors office the enabling of the obese and everything the doctor said is forgotten, there is no support and everything is man made medicine push….their is another way. While man made medicine is wonderful in some cases it is being used and depended on to take care of every ache, pain and ill when a great deal of those can be taken care of with simple lifestyle changes. I know I was the sick, fat and nearly dead and took matters into my own hands when the medical field let me down. What are the chances of colleges ever offering studies and degrees for complimentary and alternative medicine?  

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