Impact of the BESST program on trainees at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
I hope you enjoyed learning about different professional development workshops offered by our BESST (Broadening Experiences in Scientific and Scholarly Training) program, as much as I did in sharing them with you. In my final blog, I would like to give you an overview of the program’s impact, as it keeps contributing to the career development of students and postdocs. We are one of the ten institutions who received the 5-year award from NIH in 2013, for this program, while seven more institutions received it 2014. Indeed the BESST program has had a significant impact putting us on the national radar, especially with the FOBGAPT2 (Future of Bioscience Graduate and Postdoctoral Training) national meeting held at our campus in 2017, co-hosted by our University of Colorado Denver–Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School. The 3-day meeting was power-packed with numerous concurrent workshops and a plenary panel discussion; collectively focused on “deriving consensus on institutional and national policies that promote optimal training for students and fellows in the biosciences”. It was an amazing confluence of biomedical faculty, students, and postdocs, from various institutions, unified by a noble cause. The conference served as a great platform for networking, and exchanging ideas.
Among the various ongoing BESST workshops, four are listed as special topics courses and are available as classes for credit – Project Management, Principles and Strategies of Effective Teaching, Speaking and Presenting for Scientists and Educators, and Scientific Writing. Several other innovations have resulted from the BESST program. Among them are the new orientation for incoming students, and the annual Milestones of Success Celebration, both of which will be continued by the Graduate School, after NIH’s funding period for BESST concludes this year. I had the opportunity of presenting on research ethics, and mentorship, for some of the orientation sessions. It provided me with the experience of teaching to a big audience and connecting with the incoming students. The Milestones of Success is a fun-filled afternoon with hors-d’oeuvres, where nominated faculty, graduate students, and postdocs, are awarded in the categories of faculty-sponsors and peer-mentors, respectively. The event also has lab photo and video contests, recognition of Anschutz affiliates with outstanding achievements, awards for “Communicating with a Lay Audience” contest, and competitive 3-minute Thesis presentations.
The BESST program successfully ran a Mini-Symposium on Data Science for four years called “The Power of Informatics to Advance Health”, which has been passed on to the Division of Personalized Medicine, and the Graduate Certificate in Biomedical Data Science is a new offering. Other spin-offs of the BESST Program are the Academia Industry Alliance (AIA), The Ph.D. Post – a biannual newsletter run by postdocs and students where I contribute as an author, and the Speaking and Presenting Club – for practicing the teachings of the corresponding workshop. AIA is a student and postdoc driven organization that aims to connect academia with industry. Apart from the monthly Brews and Biotech networking event, AIA hosts two major annual events called LifeScience Industry Showcase, and Rocky Mountain Biotechnology Symposium, as listed in their website. These events are aimed at fostering collaborations between the academia and industry, and industrial recruitment opportunities for trainees. I became acquainted with many professionals from life-science industries through AIA, and the Careers in Science club. The BESST Program is also engaged in collaborative projects with other universities.
The BESST program has significantly impacted our training experience at Anschutz. It has greatly increased our awareness about biomedical careers and efficiently contributed towards our professional development. Its continuously expanding legacy is essential for the benefit of our peers, and similar programs need to be made available to other institutions whose trainees do not have access to such resources. I offer my best wishes for your careers, as I request yours for mine. Even though this is my final blog here, I welcome you to share your thoughts and keep following our BESST program, by either commenting below or connecting with me on LinkedIn and/or Twitter.