In the spring of 2020, Clinical and Translational Science (CTS) research at Mount Sinai was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We found that TL1 trainees and KL2 scholars funded under the auspices of ConduITS, the Institute of Translational Sciences at ISMMS in New York City, in the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, experienced widespread disruption in their research training endeavors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A newly published article by Fattah Et al. in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science highlights the impact of the pandemic on our trainees’ research productivity and career plans utilizing a qualitative survey.

In early April, during the initial wave of the pandemic, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) surveyed Clinical and Translational Science Award Program hubs, variably impacted by COVID-19, in an effort to begin to assess the initial impact of the pandemic on training [1]. This coincided with the peak of cases in NYC, making it difficult for ISMMS trainees to find the time to respond, and thus difficult to evaluate the impact at our institution at the COVID-19 epicenter. As a result, there has been less focus on qualitatively evaluating the challenges confronted during this pandemic on CTS training at its epicenter, where the academic enterprise has been profoundly affected.

We were, therefore, interested in exploring the impact of the pandemic specifically on our trainee’s research productivity in the short term, and the perceived longer term impact on the trainees’ career plans and progression. Thus, we could potentially identify where professional, practical, and well-being support could be offered to trainees in the short term, and where accommodations might be made to extend periods of training and funding for these individuals. In the longer term, we sought to develop a holistic approach to supporting trainees and developing plans that might prevent similar disruptions in the future to trainees at ISMMS.

Our survey revealed that one of the major causes of disruption was the clinical redeployment of both trainees and their mentors, and the loss of protected time for research. For trainees who were not redeployed the “stay-at-home” directives required trainees to adapt to a home environment in which to work, thereby reducing access to team members, clinical and laboratory resources. The shutdown of research studies at ISMMS specifically reduced access to study participants and patient samples need for research progress.

Participant responses were analyzed using coding and categorization. Six key themes emerged: redirection of effort, reduced access to people, lack of access to resources, home as a workplace, future uncertainty, and stress and anxiety. Insight into participant experiences allows for the development of support strategies and resources to address trainee needs.

The survey and support strategies are detailed at length in the publication [2].

  1. McCormack, WT, Bredella, MA, Ingbar, DH, et al. Immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on CTSA TL1 and KL2 training and career development. Journal of Clinical and Translational Science 2020; 4: 556–561.
  2. Fattah, L., Peter, I., Sigel, K., & Gabrilove, J. (2020). Tales from New York City, the pandemic epicenter: A case study of COVID-19 impact on clinical and translational research training at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Journal of Clinical and Translational Science, 1-5. doi:10.1017/cts.2020.560

“Supported by grant UL1TR001433 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health.”