- Career Center
|The POSTDOCket, September 2019|
Call for Lab Life Photo Essay - Deadline Extended!
Hey postdocs! We want to see the community.
Do you wear a lucky research shirt? Do you pray to a proverbial PCR god? Or maybe you only write your lab meeting notes with a black pen? Do you host an annual event for the lab (a dinner, a hike, game night?) If so, The POSTDOCket wants would like you to show these scholarly superstitions, traditions, or habits.
We are looking for photo/visual submissions from the postdoctoral scholar community to show us any scholarly traditions, rituals, or superstitions, either individually or as a research group/department. Send us photos of a tradition or superstition with a short accompanying caption describing it – e.g., why do you observe this tradition/superstition, when did it start, etc. No matter how mundane or strange, we would love to see it!
Select submissions will be published in an upcoming edition of The POSTDOCket as a photoessay. Submissions should be directed to email@example.com with subject line "Photoessay submission.” The submission deadline for entries is September 30, 2019.
As postdocs, our experiences may be widely different across the board – but as humans we all have traditions and superstitions that may be unique, but ultimately unite us all!
Accessing Medical Care in the United States
by Garnett-Powers & Associates, Inc.
Accessing care through the U.S. healthcare system can seem like a daunting, mountainous task.
After all, we fear the unknown. In fact, a 2017 survey shows that only four percent of Americans truly understand the key components of their health insurance and how they impact their out-of-pocket costs. Considering the complexity of accessing health insurance for students, this statistic is undoubtedly even lower for international postdocs.
You start with choosing a plan that suits your medical needs and budget, which would be difficult enough if the plan information were in plain English; unfortunately, it is not. Most people need a glossary to decipher the insurance jargon used to describe plan benefits, limitations and exclusions. Then, once you choose a plan, you face the uncertainty of where and how to access care. Fortunately, when armed with a bit of knowledge and understanding, accessing care seems like less of a mountain and more of a molehill.
The ABCs of Healthcare
Let’s start with the nuts and bolts of health insurance coverage, those unfamiliar terms you may have come across when looking at benefit summaries or speaking with healthcare professionals. The most important terms are related to coverage limitations and requirements:
Now we know what is covered by our insurance, but not how. The following terms will clarify the conditions to access medical services:
But How Do I Use My Coverage?
Now that we’ve established what this insurance lingo means, let’s tackle the next hurdle; where and how to access care. The handy chart below can be used as a quick-reference guide if you find yourself wondering where to go for a certain illness, injury, etc.
A Word of Caution
It’s important to remember that your plan’s network greatly impacts to what extent your care is covered or, if enrolled in an HMO plan, whether your care is covered at all. Most insurance companies offer online provider directories that require three pieces of information to perform a search: the type of provider (doctor or facility) you’re looking for, your zip code, and the name of your plan or network. The type of provider and location are simple enough, but plans and networks can be tricky. Insurance companies can offer dozens of plans, leading to an overwhelming drop-down menu full of plan names that look extremely similar. You don’t want to choose a plan that looks “close enough” during the search process, assuming the results will be applicable, only to find out the provider you visited was not in your plan’s network after all. Always be certain you are selecting the appropriate plan and/or network when utilizing an online provider directory, and call the provider ahead of time to make sure they are still in the network; provider directories are not always up-to-date.
Though you may have international travel plans, don’t count on your domestic insurance plan to offer you comprehensive coverage while abroad. Most domestic plans only offer international coverage, if at all, for extreme emergencies - think imminent danger to your life and/or your limbs. Anything less severe and you’re on the hook for the total cost of the care. If you’re looking to travel and want, or need, more comprehensive coverage, you’ll want to purchase an international health plan from a reputable insurance company.
Get What You Pay For
You and/or your university may be paying each month toward your and your family’s health insurance, making routine medical care affordable and offering protection against catastrophic medical expenses. We at GPA feel it is paramount that you understand how your medical plan operates so it works for you as intended, providing peace of mind and financial protection. That way, the next time you want or need to access care, you can have confidence in your coverage and focus on your health. Because at the end of the day, nothing is more important.
About Garnett-Powers & Associates, Inc.
Garnett-Powers & Associates (GPA) is a nationally recognized insurance broker specializing in the administration of health insurance for Visiting Scholars and Postdoctoral Scholars throughout the country, and has met the needs of these highly unique populations, and their administrators, for over 20 years.
GPA provides caring guidance through the complicated world of insurance. For more information, please contact us toll free at (877) 559-9922 or visit our website, www.Garnett-Powers.com.
NPAW 2019: Core Competencies for Postdocs to Develop to be THE MOST Appreciated
The NPA infographic of core competencies for postdoctoral scholars: discipline-specific knowledge, research skill development, communication skills, responsible conduct of research, leadership & management skills, and professionalism.
From the NPA Postdoc Resources Library.
NPAW 2019: How to be Proactive in Your Mentoring Relationships
It is no secret that professionals are often groomed by others who have paved the way in their chosen fields. The ability to proactively seek out those mentors which truly provide valuable guidance can be vital in determining a postdocs career path. Being proactive can be as simple as monthly check-in calls, meetings or emails to stay in touch.
For some it can involve asking for a mentor to be assigned by human resources or searching for a second or third Mentor.
The most successful mentoring relationships are those in which the mentee takes initiative and truly drives the mentoring partnership. It is important that the mentee helps determine the pace, route and destination of the partnership. This will allow the mentor to offer insights and counsel that are customized to the mentee's objectives. Moreover, the mentee must realize that the mentor is a guide and not the one responsible for the mentee's actions. The mentor can only open the doors and introduce the mentee to the right situations. The mentee also needs to be proactive in searching for secondary mentors and other opportunities which will allow the growth and development of their own professional network.
Listed are some suggestions on how mentees can best take advantage of the mentoring opportunities they are offered:
Acknowledgements: This article was authored by Melissa Muller and updated in 2019 by NPA staff. From the NPA Postdocs Resource Library.
NPAW 2019: Preparing Postdocs for the Future through Mentorship: A Profile of Shannon Manning
by Lisa Boughner
From The POSTDOCket archive
Shannon Manning, PhD, MPH, a University Foundation professor at Michigan State University, is the 2016 recipient of the NPA Garnett-Powers & Associates, Inc. Mentor Award. Manning was drawn to academia through her love of teaching and the ability to pursue in-depth research questions. She began her professional career as a research fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with a youthful dream of fighting infectious disease outbreaks.
She was initially hesitant about some aspects of an academic career, such as grant writing. However, she discovered she was far more prepared to succeed in academia than she thought. She now routinely ingrains in her mentees the idea that regardless of one’s insecurities, each of them likely already has the abilities needed to passionately pursue their desired career path. And if not, she assists the mentee to acquire the necessary skill set, always working to suggest and plan a path geared towards the individual’s strengths.
As a mentor, Manning emphasizes communication, a balanced assessment of abilities, constructive criticism, and an environment of empowerment—all of which greatly increase the probability of a mentee’s career success. Everyone has strengths and limitations, and it is important to recognize both in a positive balance. Constructive criticism is important, but the delivery can sometimes “make or break” a moment. When we are stressed, sometimes the last thing we need is to have our non-successes, or failures, pointed out by our mentor. Manning recognizes the need for that balanced acknowledgment. She works to create an encouraging environment, where all team members feel they have meaningfully contributed to the group by providing their own perspective, an action which may just lead to the next scientific breakthrough.
Manning is adaptable in mentee management. She understands that people respond to mentor directives in different ways. For example, one person may thrive with specific or hard deadlines, whereas another may respond better to soft deadlines. She acknowledges that space for her mentees is also important, allowing each member to cultivate their professional proficiency. Micromanaging and “in your face” demands are generally not the best methods for promoting success.
A collaborative environment is very important. Manning views interactions and communication as keys to developing and maintaining a positive collaborative environment, inclusive to both incoming and existing team members. An open door and willingness to communicate (on both sides) are essential. “I always want to be bothered,” Manning says. She strives to enhance the positive and collaborative environment through regularly scheduled group and individual meetings to nurture the collective dynamic and offer one-on-one interactions. Acceptance of cultural differences is also critical to collaboration. Manning makes an effort to bridge cultural gaps and personal differences within her team. She emphasizes that, no matter our professional level, we all need a willingness to learn, trust in others, and recognize that constructive criticism is intended as encouragement, as all are beneficial to our advancement.
On the academic versus non-academic career path decisions facing her mentees, Manning states that which one is “better” depends on the person and what would make them happy. Positions that seem unappealing on the surface may actually be surprisingly enjoyable and interesting, so it is important to give all opportunities vigilant review and consideration. Success is achieved through balance—prioritizing what is important in both professional day-to-day activities as well as one’s personal life. Manning says, “Other people’s top priority should never become your own, unless you classify it as that. You should have your own priorities.” On maintaining that balance, Manning shares, the ability “to recognize what’s important comes with time and experience, as well as the realization that you’re never, ever going to be caught up. There’s always something to do. It took me a while to learn that, and be comfortable with it.” We are all human, we all make mistakes, and we all live a life outside of research. Manning guides her mentees to enjoy life while pursuing a career that inspires their passion.
Lisa A. Boughner, PhD, is a postdoctoral scholar in the Center for Microbial Ecology at Michigan State University, and a member of the NPA 2016 Meetings Committee. This article was initially published in the Spring, 2016 issue of The POSTDOCket, vol. 14, issue 2.
Promoting Mental Health Wellness in the Postdoctoral Community
Mental health wellness for postdoctoral and graduate trainees is acknowledged by several universities as an important issue that needs to be addressed 1, 2, 3.
Several studies indicate an increase in the incidence of anxiety and depression among college students. One survey examined the links between positive emotions, resilience, and adaptive strategies for moderating anxiety and depressive symptoms in postdoctoral fellows. Of the 200 postdoctoral fellows evaluated, 13 percent were flourishing, 58 percent were languishing, and 29 percent were depressed5. The authors concluded that “in order to optimize resilience among postdocs, it is important to implement programs that would aim to increase individual use of adaptive coping strategies, decrease use of maladaptive coping strategies and increase experiences of positive emotions”5. In other words, increasing positive emotions through acknowledgement for work well done or promoting feelings of value and inclusion helped combat clinical levels of anxiety and depression. A survey conducted by the University of California, Berkeley aimed at understanding life satisfaction and well-being of trainees identified similar issues. The top concerns for students included career prospects, financial stability, ocial support, and feeling valued/included6.
Despite these recent efforts, more specific surveys that address the mental health wellness of the postdoctoral population are needed3, 4. A joint effort by the University of Kentucky and University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio sought to do just that; gathering more data on the impact of stress, anxiety, and depression on postdoctoral and graduate trainees nationally7. In 2018, this team published a stunning study showing that 39 percent of graduate students suffered moderate to severe depression and 41 percent of graduate students suffered from moderate to severe anxiety8. Data like this is key information in highlighting what is needed to support trainee health and career preparation; however, recent information specific to postdoctoral trainees—particularly international trainees with a unique set of professional demands—is still lacking. Utilizing the data from these surveys, evidence-based interventions to promote mental health wellness among postdoctoral and graduate trainees are crucial as part of a more preventive strategy. Major recommendations include:
From the NPA Postdocs Resource Library.
1. GEWIN, V. Mental health: Under a cloud. Nature, v. 490, n. 7419, p. 299-301, Oct 2012. ISSN 1476-4687. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23066544.
2. ARNOLD, C. The stressed-out postdoc. Science, v. 345, n. 6196, p. 594, Aug 2014. ISSN 1095-9203. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25082705.
3. CALLIER, V.; VANDERFORD, N. L. Mission possible: putting trainees at the center of academia's mission. Nat Biotechnol, v. 32, n. 6, p. 593-4, Jun 2014. ISSN 1546-1696. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24911506.
4. TSAI, J. W.; MUINDI, F. Towards sustaining a culture of mental health andwellness for trainees in the biosciences. Nat Biotechnol, v. 34, n. 3, p. 353-5, Mar 2016. ISSN 1546-1696. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26963557.
5. GLORIA, C. T.; STEINHARDT, M. A. Relationships Among PositiveEmotions, Coping, Resilience and Mental Health. Stress Health, Jun 2014. ISSN 1532-2998. Disponível em: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24962138.
6. ASSEMBLY, T. G. Graduate Student Happiness and Wellbeing Report 2014.University of California, Berkeley. University of California, Berkeley 2014
7. PAIN, E. Trainees and mental health: Let's Talk!: Science2016. http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2016/04/trainees-and-mental-health-let-s-talk
8. EVANS, T.M., BIRA, L., GASTELUM, J.B., WEISS, L.T., VANDERFORD, N.L. Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Nat Biotechnol. V. 36, p. 282-284. March 2018. ISSN 1546-1696. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29509732.
Thank you to new and renewing Sustaining Members of the NPA!
Sustaining Members are a vital part of the NPA. Sustaining Members represent a range of professional societies, postdoc associations, postdoc offices, and other organizations that serve the postdoctoral community. Students, postdocs, faculty, and staff at NPA Sustaining Member institutions are eligible to join the NPA, at no cost, as Affiliate Members. Check to see if your institution is an NPA Sustaining Member.
Thank you renewed members for your continued support!
Please consider joining the NPA in forwarding the interests of postdocs on a national level!
Thank you to our associate editors for September!