Assistant Professor Gakumo attends 2016 Butler-Williams Scholars Program

School of Nursing faculty one of 55 nationwide selected for prestigious NIH/NIA program for investigators new to the field of aging research
By Jimmy Creed
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing Assistant Professor Ann Gakumo, PhD, RN, was among a group of diverse scholars chosen to participate in the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute on Aging (NIA) 2016 Butler-Williams Scholars Program.

Gakumo was one of 55 scholars in the nation selected to mark the 30th anniversary of the event formerly known as the NIA’s Summer Institute on Aging Research. It was renamed in 2013 to honor Drs. Robert Butler and T. Franklin Williams, the first two NIA directors under whose leadership all current NIA programs, including the former Summer Institute, were established.

The five-day program, which brought together many international leaders in aging research on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, was designed for investigators who are relatively new to the field of aging research. 

“I’ve built a career in HIV research previously so this was a unique opportunity for me to enhance my career in the area of aging and HIV,” Gakumo said. “It was a rewarding experience. I would definitely recommend the Butler-Williams Scholars Program to any early career investigator who has an interest in aging research.”Gakumo B W Scholars croppedDr. Ann Gakumo had a chance to interact with many of the top officials of the National Institute on Aging at the 2016 Butler-Williams Scholars Program including, from left, Dr. Carl V. Hill, Director, Office of Special Populations, NIA Deputy Director Dr. Marie A. Bernard and Director Dr. Richard Hodes.

Gakumo said there were many highlights throughout the five days, including the opportunity for interaction with NIA Director Dr. Richard J. Hodes, Deputy Director Dr. Marie A. Bernard, Dr. Carl V.  Hill, director of the Office of Special Populations, and other NIA officials and experts in the field. 

“I was amazed at how approachable they were,” Gakumo said. “The heads of the programs were there every day to answer questions and offer their expertise. They took a keen interest in who we were and what our career goals were. They were at our disposal which was very impressive.”

Participating in a mock grant review and the tremendous networking opportunities were other things Gakumo cited as highlights. 

As part of the mock grant review, actual NIA grant applications were distributed among the participants who served as reviewers of the applications.

“It allowed me to be an active participant in the NIA grant application process and get a bird’s-eye view of how that process works,” Gakumo said. “That’s a great help to me in developing future applications for submission to the NIA. I now know the things they are looking for in terms of funding, which will be very helpful.”

Through her work with HIV and health literacy research at UAB, and service as vice chair of the Birmingham AIDS Outreach Board of Directors and volunteer work at UAB’s 1917 Clinic, Gakumo has developed a particular interest in health disparities research in aging. She was pleased to learn that the NIA is particularly interested in this area as well. 

“One of the things that intrigued me most to learn is that the NIA does have a considerable interest in health disparities research,” Gakumo said. “Since I have worked extensively in health disparities and HIV, that was a major highlight for me. I was inspired that the NIA does have such an interest in this area.”

Gakumo expressed special thanks to her mentors, UAB School of Nursing Professor David Vance, PhD, MGS, MS, and Professor, Project Director of the 1917 Clinic and Co-Director, UAB Center for AIDS Research, Michael J. Mugavero, MD, MHSc, for their recommendations which helped her secure the selection to this prestigious program. 

“I am thankful to my mentors who recommended me for the program and for the NIA directors and program officers who were so helpful when I sat down with them to discuss my research interests,” Gakumo said. “I learned a great deal about the future direction I want to go. The Butler-Williams Scholars Program was everything I’d hoped for and more.”
Read 10049 times Last modified on August 25, 2016

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