Measuring Success in Global Health Training: Data From 14 Years of a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine

Clin Infect Dis. 2017 Jun 15;64(12):1768-1772. doi: 10.1093/cid/cix242.


Background.: In modern academic medicine, especially in the fields of infectious diseases and global health, aspiring physician-scientists often wait years before achieving independence as basic, translational, and clinical investigators. This study employed mixed methods to evaluate the success of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund/American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (BWF/ASTMH) global health postdoctoral fellowship in promoting scientific independence.

Methods.: We examined quantitative data obtained from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and qualitative data provided by the ASTMH and program participants to assess BWF/ASTMH trainees' success in earning NIH grants, publishing manuscripts, and gaining faculty positions. We also calculated the return on investment (ROI) associated with the training program by dividing direct costs of NIH research grants awarded to trainees by the direct costs invested by the BWF/ASTMH fellowship.

Results.: Forty-one trainees received fellowships between 2001 and 2015. Within 3 years of completing their fellowships, 21 of 35 (60%) had received career development awards, and within 5 years, 12 of 26 (46%) had received independent research awards. Overall, 22 of 35 (63%) received 1 or more research awards. BWF/ASTMH recipients with at least 3 years of follow-up data had coauthored a mean of 36 publications (range, 2-151) and 29 of 35 (82%) held academic positions. The return on investment was 11.9 overall and 31.8 for fellowships awarded between 2001 and 2004.

Conclusions.: Between 2001 and 2015, the BWF/ASTMH postdoctoral training program successfully facilitated progress to scientific independence. This program model underscores the importance of custom-designed postdoctoral training as a bridge to NIH awards and professional autonomy.

Keywords: global health; infectious diseases; postdoctoral training; publication; tropical medicine..

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research
  • Communicable Diseases*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Fellowships and Scholarships* / economics
  • Global Health / education*
  • Humans
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
  • Peer Review, Research
  • Publishing
  • Research Support as Topic
  • Tropical Medicine / education*
  • United States