History of the VPCAT Research Scholars Program

Our program is a two-year, holistic faculty mentoring program that supports early-stage faculty members engaged in clinical and translational research in transitioning to accomplished, funded principal investigators. The program is housed in the health sciences Office of Academic Affairs and Faculty Development and is funded by the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences.

The program began in the Department of Pediatrics in fiscal year (FY) 2008 [Pediatric Clinical and Translational (PCAT) Research Scholars Program] and also supported child health investigators in the Departments of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Surgery and the College of Nursing. Based on the award rate success for career development grants for the PCAT scholars, in FY2013 we extended the program, renamed to the Vice President's Clinical and Translational (VPCAT) Research Scholars Program, to include all departments in the School of Medicine and the Health Sciences, including the School of Dentistry and Colleges of Health, Nursing, and Pharmacy. We later expanded to health sciences investigators in the Colleges of Humanities and Social & Behavioral Science, as well as external partners including Intermountain Healthcare and the Utah Department of Health to support the development of their institutional research programs. We coordinate and leverage resources from academic departments, the Utah Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), which is part of the NCATS-funded national CTSA Program, and several institutional K programs, including the Utah Women’s Reproductive Research Career Development Program (WRHR) K12 Program.

Matrix Mentoring ModelThe VPCAT program is based on an innovative mentoring framework created by Dr. Carrie L. Byington called the Matrix Mentoring Model, which includes five synergistic types of mentorship that create a nurturing environment that fosters accountability, communication, and learning to produce empowered principal investigators. The five types include: Self mentorship—a central component of the model where scholars are taught to engage in self-reflection to determine professional priorities and goals; Scientific mentorship—led by a primary mentor, the scientific mentorship team provides scientific skills and expertise; Peer mentorship—peer-mentoring groups, developed through the VPCAT curriculum, span the length of the program and include regular peer-to-peer networking sessions organized around relevant topics; Senior mentorship—experienced grant-funded faculty assigned by the program who provide academic career guidance, scholar advocacy, and familiarity with institutional resources, with 10% of their effort dedicated to, and supported by, the program; and Staff mentorship—experienced program staff help scholars appreciate the time and resources required for successful grant submissions and the indispensable roles staff will play in their success as principal investigators.

In order to participate, nominated faculty members at the ranks of instructor or assistant professor must have at least 30% of their effort designated for research. Approximately 20 scholars are selected annually through a competitive process. Although scholars receive no direct financial support, they are offered a wealth of resources to support their development into independent investigators, including: a two-year curriculum in scientific career development, grant preparation and writing support, and pre- and post-award grants management; study design and biostatistical support through the CTSI; support for leadership development courses, grant writing workshops, data service fees (case-by-case basis), and University coursework; and an extensive, protected grant repository of past faculty submissions with critiques.