Academic Medicine Member Cameo: Elaine Lee

Who: Elaine Lee Ph. D, Proposal Development Grant Strategist
Where: Boston University School of Medicine
Number of Years in RD: 2.5
Length of NORDP Membership: 2

What’s your history in RD? When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?Elaine Lee headshot-bw-1024x1024.png

After I finished my Ph.D. and postdoc in Biomedical Engineering, I began looking for traditional academic research professor jobs. During the course of my search, I realized I did not enjoy the repetitiveness of research and I needed more frequent and concrete deadlines. In undergrad, I had matriculated as an English major and worked at a scientific publications department at a hospital, so I started looking for jobs that married the two fields, like scientific editing, and ran across some consulting work and positions for grant writing. I have always enjoyed the idea generation aspect of research, and I am glad to have found a way to help people tell their own stories related to their research ideas.

I started at the Boston University School of Medicine in 2017 and currently serve as the Grant Strategist, assisting faculty with proposal development. I help new faculty, particularly ones for who English is not a first language. I assist them in shaping and crafting their scientific narratives as well as filling in logic gaps in their proposals.

What makes working at an academic medicine institution unique?

We work with clinicians who have to bring in funds from seeing patients in addition to their research responsibilities. As a result, we compete for their time to dedicate to research. They want to do things in a particular way according to a particular formula because that is the way they have been trained and have always done things, but research doesn’t follow a linear path. Many of them also have not formally been trained in how to formulate hypotheses. They have ideas about what they want to do, but they struggle with trying to scientifically justify and explain why it is necessary to research the problem and how they will perform a study or experimental design.

What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented)?

I joined NORDP prior to the 2018 conference and shortly thereafter learned about and joined the Academic Medicine Committee led by Heather McIntosh. I also joined the Phase II NROAD initiative led by Samar Sengupta this past year.

What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP (new colleagues, connections to institutions where you previously had no point of contact)?

I have engaged with many colleagues throughout the Midwest and West Coast as a result of my involvement with NORDP. Joanna Downer has been a lifeline for me and she has shared her perspective on how to deal with challenges that I have faced, especially those unique to medical schools. I have also forged strong bonds with Heather McIntosh and Krista Kezbers through the Academic Medicine Committee’s efforts.

How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?

NORDP has given me a great deal of confidence as I have learned that many of us are having similar experiences as we forge a path through this new field. It has provided me a way to get instant feedback from RD professionals going through the same struggles. It has also been nice to be able to crowdsource materials like the NROAD guide created by Samar. I hope to be able to use that as groundwork to expand our operation here at Boston University.

How do you see that NORDP functions as a resource for RD professionals coming from academic medicine contexts?

We work with a population that is very checklist minded. NORDP can provide guidance on how to help faculty without doing all of the work for them. It can also help you to determine when to let them face things without you and move beyond hand holding. NORDP can also help you strategize how to involve your higher ups to get their buy in when you are pitching your plans to your home institution.

What recommendations do you have for members – particularly RDPs working in an academic medicine setting — to get more involved with NORDP?

I would say to find something that aligns with your duties and jump in! My committee involvement has truly helped me learn my role in academic medicine and allowed me to now share my experience to help others. The interactions with like-minded people who  know what you are going through has been extremely helpful. I encourage you to check out the Academic Medicine Special Interest group to see if it might work for you!

The Academic Medicine Special Interest Group was created in 2018 with the goal of providing resources and professional development opportunities for research development professionals (RDPs) working with clinician-researchers/educators in an academic medicine or affiliated medical center setting. Often times, RDPs working with clinical faculty face unique challenges including working with researchers who have less formal research training and less protected time to conduct research. With this in mind, our group meets monthly via Zoom to discuss the challenges and successes we face working in this research environment. If you are interested in joining our group, please contact Heather McIntosh at You can also join our Circle, Academic Medicine/Affiliated Medical Center.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.

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