The entire biomedical research enterprise relies on the creativity, innovation, and dedication of its workforce. Because only a small fraction of biomedical Ph.D. graduates will end up in limited academic faculty positions, trainees must be prepared for various types of careers in the research enterprise. Many biomedical Ph.D. holders go on to work in the pharmaceutical industry, where they help bring to market important treatments, or in science policy where they shape guidelines and regulations for and about science, or in communication roles where they translate complex scientific findings into meaningful and usable information for everyone. All these roles can contribute tremendously to society. However, training for those that earn Ph.D.s historically has been geared towards preparation for academic positions. Therefore, NIH developed the Strengthening Biomedical Workforce Program to encourage Ph.D.-granting institutions to “provide additional training and career-development experiences to prepare trainees for a range of career options.” The Workforce Program aims to more fully support a robust and sustainable workforce that can best address current and future public health needs most effectively.
In 2013 and 2014, the Workforce program issued its “Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training” (BEST) awards, to provide support to 17 institutions to develop innovative approaches to complement traditional research training in biomedical sciences. Since that time, awardee institutions have worked to add courses or modules that teach professional skills, find innovative ways to incorporate internships into the curriculum, provide peer and alumni networking venues, and much more. For example, Vanderbilt teaches multiple modules on business & entrepreneurship, clinical research, communication, and teaching to help their student explore and prepare for such careers.