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Fuhrmann in Human Gene Therapy: Progress being made in biomedical career training

Lessons learned from a leader in innovative career development curricula for doctoral students


Cynthia Fuhrmann, PhD

The importance of career development programs for doctoral students—such as the innovative Biomedical Career Development Center at UMass Medical School’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences—is emphasized in a new commentary published in the journal Human Gene Therapy by Cynthia Fuhrmann, PhD.

Dr. Fuhrmann, assistant professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology and assistant dean of professional and career development for the GSBS, is co-principal investigator for the five-year, $2 million NIH-funded Broadening Experience in Scientific Training (BEST) grant at UMMS.

In “Enhancing Graduate and Postdoctoral Education to Create a Sustainable Biomedical Workforce,” Fuhrmann reflects on the current cultural shift in U.S. universities to embrace a wide range of careers and career preparation for PhDs. She discusses how this movement has influenced both the academic biomedical community and the field of career development; offers recommendations for universities to establish or strengthen their career development programs; suggests steps faculty can take to support the career development of their trainees; reviews recent national efforts to incentivize innovation, evaluation and research in the field of biomedical PhD career development; and proposes actions that the scientific community can take to strengthen the field of career development for PhD scientists.

“These investments will enable new approaches to be rigorously tested and efficiently disseminated to support this rapidly growing field,” Fuhrmann wrote. “Ultimately, strengthening biomedical career development will be essential for attracting the best talent to science and helping them efficiently move into careers that will sustain our nation’s scientific enterprise.”

UMMS is a recognized leader in exploring and implementing ways to expand career preparation and opportunities for biomedical sciences graduate students and postdoctoral associates. It was part of the first cohort of universities awarded a National Institutes of Health-funded BEST grant designed to improve career development training for graduate students and postdocs. UMMS was one of the first to fully integrate its BEST grant-funded program into the entire graduate curriculum from the first week of classes until completion of the PhD dissertation. Just one of many resources available to GSBS students and postdocs through the Center for Biomedical Career Development, the mandatory career development curriculum is designed to guide students and postdocs as they create and implement a strategic plan for building the skills and experience needed to reach their career objectives.

Fuhrmann wrote the journal article at the request of Human Gene Therapy Editor-in-Chief Terence R. Flotte, MD, the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor of Medical Education, dean of the School of Medicine, and executive deputy chancellor and provost at UMMS. Dr. Flotte represents the leadership at UMMS who support integrated career development curricula for biomedical graduate students.

Related stories on UMassMedNow:
GSBS Class of 2016 reap benefits of NIH-funded novel career development program
Fuhrmann discusses career development for PhDs in May issue of The Scientist
Matthews and Fuhrmann working to reform biomedical research training, career paths
NIH grant integrates career planning with scientific training