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3CPR Shark Tank Competition at AHA19: “Fish are Friends, Not Food!”

Some of the highlights of AHA19 for me include seeing the support that the AHA and many established cardiovascular leaders who are part of the AHA give to early career investigators and to see some of the amazing work completed by trainees. Specifically in the Council on Cardiopulmonary, Critical Care, Perioperative and Resuscitation (3CPR), there were many opportunities for trainees to showcase their work at AHA19 including at poster sessions, moderated poster sessions, the Cournand and Comroe Early Career Investigator Award Competition, Kenneth D. Bloch Memorial Lecture in Vascular Biology, and one of my favorite sessions that I watched this year, the 3CPR Shark Tank Competition.

To follow my previous blog post on mentorship, this post will discuss the 3CPR Shark Tank Competition, an opportunity for trainees to receive mentorship from an established leader in cardiovascular medicine at another institution.

shark tankThe TV show, Shark Tank, is a reality TV show where entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to a panel of investors known as “sharks” who then decide whether to invest in the entrepreneurs’ businesses. Similarly, in the 3CPR Shark Tank Competition, early career candidates present their proposed research project to the “sharks” who are leaders in cardiovascular medicine. Winners receive mentorship from a mentor that is not at their home institution. Specifically, the winners receive a sponsored visit to the mentor’s institution to present research or attendance at a future conference with the mentor, the mentor will review the mentee’s future grant aims page, and there are three phone calls over a year between the mentor and mentee to review data and progress towards establishing the mentee’s research program. The AHA and “sharks” contribute money to defer the costs of travel for the mentee. The goals of the Shark Tank Competition are to highlight some of the most promising junior investigators and leaders in 3CPR, promote new ways of mentorship, and show early career members what some of the important issues when presenting research ideas are from a senior perspective.

Dr. Kimberly Dunham-Snary, a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Stephen Archer’s lab at Queen’s University and winner of the 2018 Shark Tank Competition spoke very highly on the mentoring that she received after winning the 3CPR Shark Tank Competition: “Dr. Rabinovitch organized a mock faculty interview for my visit to Stanford and [I] met with numerous faculty one-on-one. I received advice about everything from chalk talk to grantsmanship to mentoring strategies. This definitely helped me prepare for my current faculty interviews. Thanks so much to Dr. Rabinovitch and to 3CPR for proving me with this training opportunity!”

Selected candidates to present in the 3CPR Shark Tank Competition had a top scoring abstract submitted to AHA Scientific Sessions or the Resuscitation Sciences Symposium (ReSS) and must be an early career investigator who is at the end of his/her postdoctoral fellowship and is planning on transitioning towards independence. Ideal candidates are looking to submit a K or AHA Career Development grant application in the next year. Each candidate has four minutes to present their proposed research program/project and the candidates can only have a single slide to support their presentation. The “sharks” then have seven minutes to clarify, question, critique, and vie for the affections of the candidates. Winners are selected by the “sharks” and audience scoring, each accounting for 50% of the final score.

This year was the second annual 3CPR Shark Tank Competition. The competition began with the “sharks” reciting the Shark Pledge in the movie, Finding Nemo (“I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine. […] Fish are friends, not food!”)1. This year’s “sharks” were Dr. Mark Gladwin from University of Pittsburgh; Dr. Jane Leopold from Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Dr. Robert Neumar from University of Michigan; Dr. Werner Seeger at the Max-Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research and Universities of Giessen and Marburg in Germany; Dr. Marc Semigran, chief medical officer of MyoKardia; and Dr. Terry Vanden Hoek at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Winners of this year’s Shark Tank Competition were Dr. Alexis Steinberg, Neuro-Critical Care Fellow at the University of Pittsburg; Dr. Taijya Satoh, postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Gladwin’s laboratory at University of Pittsburg; and Dr. Rajat Kalra, Advanced Imaging Fellow at the University of Minnesota.

Not only is the 3CPR Shark Tank Competition a great opportunity for trainees who are in 3CPR to participate in, it was very entertaining to watch. I think that since the competition was at night around dinner time, as the evening progressed, the “sharks” may have gotten a little more irritable and had to be reminded that minnows are friends. I encourage FITs in 3CPR to consider participating in the 3CPR Shark Tank Competition in the future and for all trainees in 3CPR and any other council to consider watching this entertaining competition in the future!

 

References:

  1. Finding Nemo. Directed by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, Walt Disney Pictures, 30 May 2003.

 

Acknowledgments:

Thank you to Dr. Kurt Prins, one of the organizers of the 3CPR Shark Tank Competition, for providing me with information about the Shark Tank Competition and to Dr. Kimberly Dunham-Snary for allowing me to share her feedback on her experience with the Shark Tank Competition.

 

 

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.

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Benefits of joining an early career investigator’s lab

In addition to learning about some fantastic science and research, one of the major benefits of attending American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions (or any other national meeting) as a fellow-in-training is the networking opportunities. Trainees can take advantage of the opportunity to interact with principal investigators and/or members of labs that they may be interested in joining in the future.

While there are many benefits to joining an established lab, I strongly encourage trainees to consider meeting with and possibly consider joining a new/early career investigator’s lab. There are several benefits to joining an early career investigator’s lab.

I recently joined an early career investigator’s lab for my postdoctoral fellowship. I am a Cardiology physician-scientist trainee. I completed a Medical Scientist (MD/PhD) Program and then joined a Physician Scientist Training Program in Internal Medicine. I completed my Internal Medicine residency and then started my Cardiology fellowship. I spent a long time finding a lab to do my research postdoctoral fellowship. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to join Dr. Kurt Prins lab. Dr. Prins is a Cardiology physician-scientist who studies the mechanisms of right ventricular dysfunction in pulmonary hypertension and is an early career investigator.

Below are some of the benefits of joining an early career investigator’s lab:

  1. Mentorship: As my mentor’s first and only postdoctoral trainee so far, I have received a lot of individualized mentorship. His office door has always been open and I talk to him almost every day about science, career advice, and/or our personal lives. Due to Kurt’s approachability and availability, I feel that I may have been able to be more productive in the lab, partly due to the ease of working with him to troubleshoot experiments.
  2. Establishing the groundwork for many projects: In smaller labs, the lab members are often involved in multiple/all projects. It is exciting to be able to lay the groundwork for multiple projects that the lab may be involved in for years to come or may be the foundation of my lab in the future. Being involved in multiple projects may also lead to multiple publications.
  3. Learning how to start and set up a lab: I joined Kurt’s lab a year after he started his lab. Watching the process of starting and setting up a new lab is invaluable. As a trainee who is interested in starting her own lab in the future, being closely involved in writing/reviewing animal protocols, reviewing grant applications, and even organizing the freezer racks will help with tackling the inevitable steep learning curve of being an independent investigator. Sometimes in a more established lab, one may not receive the experience of learning all of the processes involved in setting up and running a lab.
  4. Mentor can empathize on the potential struggles of being an early stage investigator: Early career principal investigators can often empathize with trainees on the challenges of obtaining grant funding and publishing papers during the current research climate along with possible other scientific/personal challenges. Early stage investigator can provide trainees with relevant career advice that are applicable in today’s scientific environment.
  5. Doing experiments with principal investigator: At this time, my mentor spends a lot of time in the lab doing experiments alongside the other lab members, which makes the lab environment a lot of fun! Kurt and I have developed a lot of inside jokes between us because of the amount of time we spend together!

While there are many benefits to joining an early career investigator’s lab, there are also some potential difficulties that can easily be overcome. For further career development, it may also be valuable to have a senior mentor. As you have probably heard before, ultimately deciding which lab to join for your graduate or postdoctoral training is like finding a spouse – you have to find a good match. For those who are interested, there was an article published in Nature about the potential benefits of joining a new lab (1). For those of you who want to discuss more about potentially joining an early career investigator’s lab, please feel free to reach out to me. For those of you who joined an early career investigator’s lab, I would also be interested in hearing about your experiences.

 

References

  1. Woolston C. Why a new lab can be a valuable destination for postdocs and graduate students. Nature. 2018;558:333-335

 

 

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.