July 05, 2023

UAB CARES Program Support Early-Career Scientists Amidst COVID-19 Challenges

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covid19 imageThe University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) COVID-19 Caregiving Affected Early-Career Research Scientists (CARES) Retention Program was established in 2021. Its purpose is to support early-career researchers who experienced a decline in their scholarship and research output due to caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic’s peak. CARES aims to prevent these researchers from leaving academic research by providing funding for additional support.

“The overarching goals of CARES is to ensure successful scholarship, avoid an early career funding gap, and avert attrition from academia – disproportionately experienced by women and persons from backgrounds underrepresented in science,” says Heersink School of Medicine program contact Michael Mugavero, M.D., MHSc.

Over the last two years, CARES at UAB has granted up to $50,000 each to 28 assistant and associate professors from the schools of Medicine, Health Professions, Nursing, and Public Health. These grants serve as a means to assist caregiving-affected investigators in restoring their research productivity.

Recipients also engage in a monthly seminar series organized by CARES at UAB. Initially designed to foster a sense of community, the seminar series serves multiple purposes, such as offering lectures on career development strategies and providing a platform for awardees to present their ongoing projects. Over time, the series has evolved into a supportive environment where awardees can openly discuss their unique challenges as scientists and caregivers. This forum encourages honest conversations and enables participants to effectively contribute their thoughts and ideas to tackle these issues.

CARES at UAB initially received funding from the forward-thinking Fund to Retain Clinical Scientists (FRCS), sponsored by the Doris Duke Foundation, and focused on supporting and retaining physician-scientists at UAB. Internally at UAB, the program received an overwhelming enthusiasm to broaden the scope to include non-physician scientists.

The program expanded its reach thanks to additional funding from various institutional sources, including the schools of Medicine, Health Professions, Nursing, and Public Health, the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, and the Department of Pediatrics. As a result, 16 additional awards were made available specifically for non-physician researchers in the four aforementioned schools. These additional funds played a crucial role in supporting and recognizing the valuable contributions of non-physician scientists within the program.

Awardees from the first round of grants took the opportunity to express how the supplemental funding has positively impacted their professional journeys:

“CARES funding has allowed me to finish analyses, manuscripts, and disseminate results that I would otherwise not have been able to accomplish.”

“The CARES program has been fantastic – I appreciate the “extra hands” that have allowed me to make progress without making undo sacrifices in other arenas.”

“This funding has been extremely helpful in moving this project forward. I am thankful for the opportunity to hire a research assistant to help with data entry and project administration.”

Read more about the program.