View a 508-compliant PDF of this issue here: NICHD_Connection_2010_10.pdf

Interesting Opportunity logoOpportunities abound at NIH to use your scientific training away from the bench and gain valuable perspective and experience in program management, policy, communication, and other aspects of what drives and guides science at a federal agency. For example, fellows have the opportunity to be “detailed,” with the support of your advisor, in a policy or program office almost anywhere at NIH, or even at other HHS agencies. I sought out such an experience and am currently serving in a detail at the Office of Global Health Affairs (OGHA), at HHS headquarters in downtown DC. I started on September 1st, and even though I have been there full-time for only a few weeks, serving as an International Health Analyst, I've learned an enormous amount about global health policy, science diplomacy, and foreign relations. My work, which focuses on Southeast Asia, includes writing meeting briefs and memos for the OGHA director, developing strategies to use HHS resources in developing countries to support and build health capacity, and communicating with overseas HHS staff to provide program support and coordination. The position has been very challenging, and of course moving from the bench to the office takes some getting used to, but I now know what life is like in a policy office and that this is the direction that I would like to take my career.

If you seek such an experience, I recommend speaking with Brenda Hanning, our fantastic training director, who knew of my interest in global health, helped me to find my detail office, and facilitated the paperwork and other important details. She can also provide advice on how to approach your advisor with a request for a detail. Finally, to help you explore the possibilities, you should contact and set up informational interviews with office directors to see what places and types of detail might be a good fit for you. Whether you are early or late in your postdoctoral career, the best time to start thinking about the future is now.

Editor's note: A detail is a short-term rotation in another area of the organization, either part-time (e.g., two days per week) or for a one- to three-month period, typically.