NIDDK Director's Update Summer 2019

News Around NIDDK

NIH puts focus on eliminating workplace harassment, discrimination

By January W. Payne

Image of harassment poster - Speak Up! Speak Out!

Workplace harassment has garnered national attention in recent years, as employers crack down on bad behavior and encourage employees to speak up if they feel uncomfortable.

In line with a rising awareness of the harms and prevalence of workplace harassment, the National Institutes of Health and NIDDK are encouraging employees to create a workplace free of harassment and discrimination, and to come forward if they believe they’ve been harassed in the workplace. In January and February 2019, all NIDDK employees, trainees, contractors and volunteers attended anti-harassment town hall meetings to encourage education and open dialogue on the topic, including discussion of NIH’s updated Anti-Harassment Policy and new Personal Relationships in the Workplace Policy.

“NIDDK leaders are dedicated to ensuring that we create and sustain a culture within which you can flourish, a culture that is collegial, respectful and fair, and one where all feel welcomed and valued – an environment that is intolerant of inappropriate conduct or harassment of any sort,” said NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers in an email to all NIDDK staff.

NIDDK efforts were part of a larger push for culture change. The National Academies 2018 report on sexual harassment of women in science found that “federal agencies may be perpetuating the problem of sexual harassment.” A letter from NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and others said that they are concerned NIH has been part of the problem. To address this, NIH established the Working Group of the Advisory Council to the Director (ACD) on Changing the Culture to End Sexual Harassment to identify areas for improvement. ACD will report interim recommendations in June and provide a final report and recommendations to the ACD in December.

“This type of change can be challenging and may even be met with conflict, but rest assured we will continue to focus on our future state,” said NIDDK Executive Officer Camille Hoover. “We’ve educated people on these policies, and now it’s time to develop and enact ways to make these practices the reality across our institute, for everyone.”

Find more information at the NIH Civil Program website or by calling the Anti-Harassment Hotline: 833-224-3829.

Photo of Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers with a group of children
Photo credit: Alyssa Voss

NIH hosts Take Your Child to Work Day for 25th year

NIH employees and their children enjoyed a fun day of educational activities at the agency’s annual Take Your Child to Work Day on April 25. This was the 25th year NIH hosted this event. NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers greeted children attending the Institute’s “Incredible Adventures of the Amazing Food Detectives” activity.

Getting to know: Dr. Christopher Lynch

Photo of Dr. Christopher Lynch

Dr. Christopher Lynch directs of NIDDK’s Office of Nutrition Research (ONR), leading nutrition research at NIDDK and coordination across NIH. He is also chief of the Nutrition Research Branch in NIDDK’s Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition (DDN). Lynch spoke with Heather Martin about his career, passion for collaboration, and advice for people just getting started in research.

How did you become involved in nutrition research?

Just as the obesity epidemic began, I was early in my career and working on hormone and neurotransmitter signals, which are chemical messengers that control many of the body’s functions. Just as cells can detect the presence of hormones, they can also detect and react to many nutrients. I became interested in obesity and metabolic diseases and was fascinated with how nutrients affect cells.

What brought you to NIH?

I had the opportunity to coordinate cross-discipline research at Pennsylvania State University, where I was for more than 25 years before coming to NIH. Seeing connections and bringing people together to foster research creativity and innovation energizes me. Collaboration and coordination can help reduce duplication and spark new ideas. This is what led me to NIDDK, with the goal to coordinate nutrition research across NIH. Nutrition has a relationship with many diseases. In fact, 40% of Americans have more than one chronic disease, which are studied in different NIH institutes or centers. My goal for ONR is to solve complex questions about nutrition efficiently and creatively, looking across NIH and sharing our knowledge and resources.

What is next for nutrition research?

Through much collaboration across NIH and with external experts, and others, we’re developing a cross-Institute strategic plan for NIH nutrition research for the next 10 years. It will soon be publicly available, and in the meantime, we are working to form internal implementation workgroups to monitor and achieve the plan’s goals. The groups will look comprehensively at nutrition research and identify any areas where special initiatives might be needed. ONR will continue to provide support and information to make this an engaging and meaningful effort.

What advice do you give to people interested in a research career?

Don’t give up. You can’t get a grant or opportunity you do not apply for. Also, build a supportive network of mentors and others you look up to because relationships matter. Think about going outside your research area for mentors, since many skills for a research career are cross cutting.

Those interested in research careers should also become an expert on their funding agency, like NIH, and how it operates. Learn about their program goals, become a study section volunteer, check out Advisory Council information, and participate in or attend any relevant NIH workshops.

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