Posted Monday, November 6, 2017 - 17:28
As you make your way through the application process, I hope you’ve taken advantage of the many resources that we have available to ensure you have a pleasant experience applying for an LRP. The LRP Ambassador Program, one of our most personable resources, is also a phenomenal asset for potential applicants! LRP Ambassadors are a Nation-wide network of LRP awardees and supporters that serve as a personalized link/connection between the NIH LRPs and potential applicants at their home institutions. LRP Ambassadors provide advice and encouragement regarding the LRP application process, their experiences, and more. Want to find an Ambassador near you? Search the LRP Ambassador Directory!
As an example of the dynamic impact that an Ambassador can make at their local institutions, I want to highlight Dr. Dionna Williams, LRP Ambassador and Postdoctoral fellow at John Hopkins University. Dr. Williams recently hosted a networking forum for fellows and junior faculty to learn more about the NIH LRPs and the application process. With the help of her colleague, Dr. Jelani Zarif, Clinical Research for Individuals from Disadvantage Background LRP recipient, Dr. Williams was able to secure her Health Disparities Research LRP award. After receiving the award, you can imagine Dr. Williams felt the need to pay it forward.
What is your current occupation and research focus?
My long-term research goal is to translate what I’ve learned from HIV to other neurodegenerative disorders to reduce the disproportionate burden of HIV and neurologic disease in underrepresented minority populations.
How did the LRP Ambassador Hopkins event come to fruition?
The LRP Ambassador Program is incredibly helpful as it allows a point of contact for interested applicants. I’d received many emails and questions from friends and colleagues about the LRPs, so I decided that an open forum format would be an ideal way to answer questions for a larger audience. Also, I know from my own experience, that meeting with someone from your own institution gives you hope that it is possible to develop and submit a successful LRP application!
What is a surprising benefit that you’ve experienced via the LRP Ambassador Program?
The most surprising benefit was initiating a collaboration with a fellow investigator at Hopkins who had complementary research interests as mine! I don’t’ think I would have ever known about this investigator had I not had access to the LRP Ambassador directory.
How has receiving an LRP award impacted your career?
The LRP award has benefitted my career tremendously! My student loans from college entered repayment at the beginning of my postdoctoral fellowship. This was a major financial challenge at a critical point in my career. I was highly motivated to pursue a research career in academia; however, I briefly considered moving to industry because of the financial opportunities possible in that venue. Thankfully, I was awarded the Health Disparities LRP! It has substantially relieved my financial pressures and the protected time allowed me to focus entirely on my research, which included further developing and pursuing health disparities-focused interests that I otherwise would not have been able to pursue. As a result, I amassed preliminary data that was used to support a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence Award, which I recently received! I am now applying for tenure-track faculty positions. I don’t think any of this would have been possible if I had not received loan repayment support from the NIH LRPs!
As you can see from Dr. Williams’ journey, the benefits of the LRPs reach far beyond just repayment of student loan debt.
As a reminder, the NIH LRP application cycle is winding down quickly. If you haven’t had an opportunity to take part in our recent Twitter chat, LRP application technical assistance webinar or join one of our talks at your local university/institution, I’d like to take a take a few moments to remind you of a few of our resources that can assist you as you complete your LRP application prior. The deadline is November 15th!
If you want to learn more about the NIH LRPs, please utilize the resources I outlined in this blog, and also call or e-mail the LRP Information Center at 866-849-4047 (Mon-Fri 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST) or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow the NIH Division of Loan Repayment on Twitter and Facebook for more information and cycle updates.