News Around NIDDK
At the NIDDK, a new tool creates a roadmap to staff success
Every year, NIDDK staff take a comprehensive survey of their workplace perceptions. And every year, the NIDDK Executive Office—the administrative center of the institute—receives a trove of rich data about employee engagement, satisfaction and other measures. But sifting through all the numbers of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, or FEVS, to find actionable ways to improve was a challenge.
That challenge met its match in NIDDK staff, said NIDDK Executive Officer Camille Hoover and Senior Management Analyst Robin Klevins in a recent interview with Federal News Radio.
"We wanted a framework to tap into the FEVS data at a deeper level, a method to help us better understand the voice of the people," Hoover said.
The result is an innovative tool that could save the government millions of dollars annually in time—while providing better, quicker analysis of the survey results. Called the EVS Analysis & Results Tool, EVS ART for short, the Excel-based tool quickly sorts survey data into relevant, customizable metrics that enable staff to see their organization's strengths and opportunities for improvement.
A collaborative effort, Klevins created the tool, NIDDK analyst Vy Tran helped fine-tune its automation, and Hoover spearheaded its implementation.
The results have been impressive. With the EVS ART, an analysis that once took 30 hours, or $1,350 to produce, can now be completed in five minutes, costing $3.75.
With the time the EVS ART saves on analysis, managers can focus more on employee-based initiatives and fostering positive change. Within NIDDK, for example, though institute-wide results were rosy, the tool revealed an office that was struggling. "We worked with that group specifically, and put in exacting strategic initiatives, such as leadership and structural changes," said Hoover. "A year later, their scores went up dramatically—30-40% in some areas—because their concerns were heard and addressed."
NIDDK has shared the EVS ART with other NIH institutes and across HHS agencies, and is beginning to share it even more broadly. The tool, and its capabilities, has been met with overwhelmingly positive feedback. "We're excited to share the EVS ART across the federal government," Klevins said. "It's free, requires almost no training beyond basic Excel skills, and people can realize its benefits immediately."
With 80 agencies participating in the FEVS last year, the EVS ART is already making a big impact.
EVS ART has already shone a light on NIDDK's achievements as a workplace. In 2017, NIDDK ranked No. 1 of large institutes and centers across NIH in employee engagement, global satisfaction and other measures, which Hoover attributes to changes implemented in direct response to EVS ART results.
As Klevins said, "The tool allows us to show people, ‘You spoke, we listened, this happened.'"
STEP-UP Program visits the Marshall Islands
By Lisa Yuan
NIDDK's Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers and Dr. Lawrence Agodoa spoke with future scientists at Laura High School and Marshall Islands High School in Majuro, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, in January about the NIDDK Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons Program (STEP-UP). The 8-10 week summer program provides high school and undergraduate students with hands-on research experience under the supervision of a mentor. It also fosters young people's interest in science—especially those with disabilities and those from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in biomedical research.
Rodgers, NIDDK's director, and Agodoa, director of the NIDDK Office of Minority Health Research Coordination, then traveled to Hawaii, where they met with staff and students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa's John A. Burns School of Medicine to discuss STEP-UP, as well as the latest in diabetes research.
Getting to Know: Dr. Carol Renfrew Haft
Dr. Carol Renfrew Haft is a program director in the NIDDK Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases (DEM), managing a research portfolio that includes cell biology and fat tissue biology. She is also associate director for grants administration for DEM, overseeing presentation of DEM research grant applications for secondary review by the NDDK Advisory Council. Haft spoke with Becky Abel about her early scientific training, her roles at NIDDK, and her hope for future researchers.
How did you get interested in basic science research?
I majored in a male-dominated field—chemistry—at the University of Delaware. My undergraduate advisor suggested that I take a graduate-level biochemistry course, and this experience was an "aha" moment for me. As the material became more biology-focused, it also became more fascinating.
The professor who taught the biochemistry course was a successful female research scientist. She told me about her experiences in graduate school and running a research lab, and about her kids and her family life. Having a positive role model meant a lot to me. Under her mentorship, I applied and was accepted to a medical school Ph.D. program.
How did your career progress after you received your undergraduate degree?
I earned a Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. In 1991, I came to the NIDDK, where I have been ever since. As a postdoctoral fellow, I studied the machinery used to coordinate the many pathways activated in the body by insulin. I also was an intramural staff scientist, and then I became a DEM program director in 2001.
What are your roles at NIDDK?
I primarily oversee a large grant portfolio of research related to the biology of fat tissue. The hope is that by understanding the complexity of fat tissues, we may learn how to alter key signals and improve the health of people with diabetes, lipodystrophy, and obesity.
In my other role as associate director of grants administration in DEM, I coordinate the division's many scientific and administrative duties that help our 28 program directors and grant specialists distribute funding in a fair, consistent, and timely way.
Although I'm a basic scientist by training, I also have type 1 diabetes. I often remind my colleagues of the importance of research that looks at what people see as important health outcomes. For example, in addition to investigating prevention of type 1 diabetes, we should also dedicate resources to how to improve the lives of people with diabetes throughout their lifetimes. Being able to play even a small part in the great work supported by NIDDK has been an honor. And it is kind of personal for me, as I am fast approaching living with type 1 diabetes for 50 years.
What do you hope that recent graduates going into the field will pursue?
I hope that endocrinologists and diabetes researchers of the future are ready to deal with lots of information, as well as a range of behavioral tools and drugs designed to personalize treatment. Future scientists should also be ready to do a good job of communicating to the public why the work done at NIH—and with NIH support—matters.