Alumni perspectives on career preparation during a postdoctoral training program: a qualitative study.

Author(s): Faupel-Badger JM,  Raue K,  Nelson DE,  Tsakraklides S

Journal: CBE Life Sci Educ

Date: 2015 Mar 2

Major Program(s) or Research Group(s): CPFP

PubMed ID: 25673353

PMC ID: PMC4353075

Abstract: Published evaluations of career preparation of alumni from long-standing postdoctoral fellowship programs in the biomedical sciences are limited and often focus on quantitative analysis of data from extant publicly available sources. Qualitative methods provide the opportunity to gather robust information about specific program elements from structured postdoctoral training programs and the influence of this training on subsequent career paths of alumni. In-depth interviews with a subset of the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program (CPFP) alumni (n=27), representing more than 25 years of the program's history and multiple career sectors, were conducted to assess alumni reflections on the training environment and career preparation during their time in the CPFP. NVivo software was used to analyze data and identify major themes. Four main themes emerged from these interviews, including: the value of structured training curriculum, mentorship, transdisciplinary environment, and professional identity. Even when reflecting on training that occurred one to two decades earlier, alumni were able to highlight specific components of a structured postdoctoral training program as influencing their research and career trajectories. These results may have relevance for those interested in assessing how postdoctoral training can influence fellows throughout their careers and understanding salient features of structured programs.