Two lead researchers at NIEHS learned April 23 that the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) selected them to participate in the inaugural NAM Emerging Leaders Forum in July.
Chandra Jackson, Ph.D., from the Epidemiology Branch, and Natalie Shaw, M.D., from the Clinical Research Branch, will join approximately 70 early- and mid-career researchers at the forum, along with selected members of the academy.
NAM organized the forum as a venue for the two groups of researchers to consider and stimulate collaborative interdisciplinary solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in health and medicine today.
Jackson, a Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator, leads the Social and Environmental Determinants of Health Group and holds a joint appointment in the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. She is interested in how physical and social environments influence racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities in cardiometabolic health and well-being.
Shaw, a Lasker Clinical Research Scholar, leads the Pediatric Neuroendocrinology Group and is head of the Body Weight and Puberty Study. Shaw studies genetic and environmental factors that influence pubertal development in girls.
“This is a highly competitive program, and I am thrilled that two of our most outstanding tenure-track investigators and future stars were selected to take part,” said NIEHS Scientific Director Darryl Zeldin, M.D. “The opportunities to network with NAM members will greatly benefit them in the future.”
Spark new collaborations
The two will bring an environmental health perspective to discussions at the forum. Both scientists appreciate the value of partnering with specialists in other fields and the potential for new collaborations.
In addition to sociologists, risk-factor epidemiologists, and physician-scientists who specialize in pulmonary function and sleep medicine, Jackson is working with a medical anthropologist on some of her sleep research. “Our training, skillsets, and experiences are very different, yet complementary and synergistic,” she said. “The research is undoubtedly stronger and more relevant with these types of collaborations, which started before I came to NIEHS and continue to flourish.”
For her part, Shaw noted that scientific collaborations have been a critical component of all of her research projects. “For example, my research on Bosma syndrome, an extremely rare form of pubertal failure, has been possible because of an international consortium of nearly 40 pediatricians, geneticists, endocrinologists, basic scientists, and clinical investigators,” she said.
Looking ahead, Shaw emphasized the value of collaborative efforts in the search for and reduction of environmental exposures responsible for documented trends of obesity and earlier puberty in today's youth.
Jackson is eager to see what topics emerge from conversations at the forum and to develop approaches to pursue those that seem the most promising. “My focus on social and environmental determinants of sleep health is well-positioned for innovation as this understudied area of research is relevant to virtually all health outcomes,” she pointed out.
“We established the forum to increase our engagement with exceptional early- and mid-career professionals working in biomedical science, health care delivery, health policy, and related fields,” said NAM President Victor Dzau, M.D., in his October 2017annual address to the academy.
One way that engagement will happen is through face-to-face interactions between early investigators and highly influential NAM members. “The Forum will provide a platform for identifying novel and inventive means of tackling difficult problems in health and, through its panels and discussion groups, spark transformative change in the field,” wrote Meg McCoy, J.D., and Gregg Margolis, Ph.D., co-directors of the Emerging Leaders in Health and Medicine (ELHM) Program, in their letter of invitation.
“I am equally interested in discussing innovative research plans and networking with peers across a wide array of disciplines and with highly successful, established researchers who have been elected to NAM,” said Jackson.
Shaw expressed excitement about the opportunity to network with other young investigators from across the country. “This event also represents a unique opportunity to interact with investigators from many other disciplines, which is sure to spark new ideas and collaborations,” she said.
The forum is one part of the NAM ELHM Program. The program also involves naming a small number of scientists as ELHM Scholars.