Dr. Maya Lodish is a Staff Clinician and Deputy Director for the Pediatric Endocrinology Fellowship at the NICHD. Prior to transitioning to staff clinician, Dr. Lodish served as an Assistant Clinical Investigator for three years mentored by Dr. Constantine Stratakis. She completed her fellowship in Pediatric Endocrinology at the NICHD in 2006, during which she focused her clinical research on Cushing’s syndrome. Dr. Lodish has kindly shared her experiences as a staff clinician and deputy program director in a Q&A with The NICHD Connection:
1. What’s your typical day like as a Staff Clinician serving as Deputy Director for the Pediatric Endocrinology Fellowship?
It’s an amazing privilege to have this position because it allows me to have a diverse day. Two of my main responsibilities include mentoring the fellows and seeing patients in the Clinical Center.
I’m very involved in curriculum, faculty meetings, and shaping our fellowship program. Today I spent about an hour meeting with a candidate who we’re trying to recruit to our program. I also get to work closely with trainees. Yesterday, I met with an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland to go over her abstract that we’ll submit to the Endocrine Society on data from clinical work at the NIH.
Blended with that are administrative duties, trying to keep the fellowship in line with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) requirements. We continuously strive to improve our program and to meet the specifications that are required of our fellowship. Some of it is a bit of paperwork, evaluations, scheduling, etc. I am lucky to work with a very supportive team–especially our program specialist Ms. Fetima Worthington, who juggles all the administrative work to keep the fellowship running smoothly.
So, the typical day consists of seeing patients in clinic, seeing patients on the ward, rounding with the fellows, going to various teaching conferences, sitting down with fellows one-on-one to mentor them through their research projects, and fielding calls from prospective patients or following up with patients about their particular condition. And then I have two young kids that I’m running around like crazy to pick up on time.
2. Can you describe your decision process about what you wanted to do after your time in the Assistant Clinical Investigator program? Did you always know you wanted to remain at the NIH?
I’ve always loved the NIH. I came here as a volunteer, starting at age 16, in the NIDDK with Dr. Alan Schecter—I have a copy of my volunteer NIH ID from 1994 on my wall! It reminds me of the opportunities that can come to trainees after they have had an experience at the NIH even at a young age. I worked here as a summer student in high school and college, so I knew a lot about what this place offers. I came back when I was in medical school doing a rotation in pediatric oncology, which gave me a taste of how amazing NIH is at bridging the bench and the bedside, working with patients coming to the NIH to participate in clinical trials. The NIH is incredibly cutting edge, and there’s just so much interdisciplinary, exciting work that goes on here. It just seemed like a natural progression from my fellowship to be able to stay here and take advantage of the available opportunities.
In terms of being a deputy director of the fellowship, I get to further my experiences with medical education, which has always been a dream of mine. My parents are both educators. My mom is a high school librarian, and my dad is a retired elementary school principal. I think it’s part of who I am that I really like to teach. It challenges your knowledge to teach something to others. I’m constantly learning new things by being at the NIH every day. And that’s something that I would never want to give up. My fellows teach me new things. My patients teach me new things. Our knowledge is evolving, and I just can’t think of a more exciting place to be. It is also incredibly gratifying to help students in their medical careers, and giving them the tools they need to give back to others. It makes my day when a former IRTA is accepted to medical school, or a former fellow receives a grant or passes their board examinations–to have played a part in their education is incredible.
3. What activities or resources at the NICHD helped prepare you for your career transition?
Dr. Stratakis has served as an amazing mentor along the way, and I have learned from his example. In addition, I have learned from my colleagues on the Graduate Medical Education Committee, which is a group of other NIH program directors, and, in particular, the Designated Institutional Official to the ACGME, Dr. Bob Lembo. He oversees the different fellowships at NIH. He’s a pediatric rheumatologist who has a love of medical education, and he’s mentored me through a lot of the nitty-gritty in terms of how to be deputy program director of a clinical fellowship and how to prepare for a site visit (an official visit to determine if the fellowship program meets the requirements of the overseeing body, in this case the ACGME). Another thing that helped me was talking to my colleagues who are leaders of other training programs at the NIH.
4. Do you have any advice for fellows who are entering the clinical research career field?
I would say that having the opportunity to be a staff clinician is a wonderful bridge between fellowship and what you decide to do afterward, and being deputy program director is giving me a lot of experience in medical education.
It’s a really rewarding career choice. The opportunities are increasing in this field because positions at academic institutions in clinical research as a clinician-educator are growing.
A few words of advice: keep going to grand rounds and meetings with folks outside your direct area of research- there are opportunities to form many fascinating collaborative endeavors. Never stop being inquisitive, and take advantage of the many resources and mentors here at the NIH. Think about how you got to where you are and the people that helped you get there, and try to return the favor and remember the shoes you used to be in.
5. What are your thoughts about getting clinical fellows and basic science fellows to communicate/collaborate more often? What benefit do you think could come of this type of communication?
It’s integral to the way that research moves ahead to have great communication. In the example of Dr. Stratakis’ lab, a lot of the fellows who are doing basic science come to the clinical conferences. In addition, many of the clinical and basic science projects overlap. For example, we may look at the clinical course of a patient in concert with genetic changes that we find in the lab. A lot of the work we do is collaborative in terms of how patients’ specific genetic make-up affects their disease course. It’s all tied together. Also, many of the most fruitful and innovative projects I have been involved in at the NIH bridge institutes, for example collaborating with the NCI to treat children with thyroid cancer.
A lot of our fellows choose to do part of their research years in the lab and then also do a clinical project to get exposure to both. I highly encourage that option when I’m mentoring the fellows about what research projects to choose. It really helps to broaden your exposure to what’s out there because it’s changing so fast.
6. Is it ok if current NICHD fellows contact you with questions? If yes, what email address should they use?
Yes! My contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org.