Ovarian Cancer Academy: 10 Years of Empowering Early Career Ovarian Cancer Investigators

Posted September 25, 2019

Since its formation in Fiscal Year 1997 (FY97), a major focus of the Ovarian Cancer Research Program (OCRP) has been on fostering the next generation of investigators in ovarian cancer. Along the way, that focus became a powerful vision, which led in turn to the development of the Ovarian Cancer Academy in FY09. The purpose of the Academy was to encourage and maintain the sustainable progress of ovarian cancer researchers in the early stages of their careers. This would be done through intensive mentoring, national networking, and a peer group of Early Career Investigators (ECIs) in their pursuit to become successful, highly productive ovarian cancer researchers. Dr. Nita Maihle, current Academy Dean, explains it this way: “The DoD-sponsored Ovarian Cancer Academy takes a unique approach to ovarian cancer research training - one that is intended to create a strong community of practice among all participants. Through this program participants strengthen their commitment to the field of ovarian cancer research, and also to each other through their collective learning activities, resulting in a synergy in their work, whether working together or separately.”

In FY09, the OCRP released the first program announcement for the Ovarian Cancer Academy, calling for ECIs and their Designated Mentors to participate in the Academy. Along with requests for ECIs, the OCRP released the program announcement for an Academy Dean as well. The OCRP Ovarian Cancer Academy Dean Award supports visionary individuals who are established ovarian cancer researchers with a strong record of mentoring and a commitment to leadership. The Academy Dean is expected to catalyze the growth and professional development of the ECIs in collaboration with their Designated Mentors, assess the progress of the ECIs, and facilitate communication and collaboration among all of the Academy members. Dr. Patricia Donahoe, Director of Pediatric Surgical Research at Massachusetts General Hospital was established as the first Dean. She and seven ECIs and their Mentors were the first members of the Academy. Dr. Donahoe developed an Academy that would nurture ECIs by providing committed mentoring so that each early career investigator could progress and mature during the course of their award. She established a virtual Academy through advanced videoconferencing and an online web-based lecture series to interconnect mentors, mentees, and the Academy Dean. Under her leadership, 11 ECIs entered and benefitted from the Academy.

In FY14, the OCRP requested a combined leadership for the Academy. The Academy Dean and Assistant Dean were to have highly synergistic skill sets that would benefit the ECIs. And in 2015 a new Academy Dean, Dr. Nita Maihle, Associate Director for Basic Research at The University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Assistant Dean, Dr. Douglas Levine, Director of Gynecologic Oncology at The New York University School of Medicine, were selected to lead the Academy. The diverse background and expertise of this strong team brought visionary leadership to the Academy. During their tenure, the Deans focused on facilitating communication, increasing visibility, and developing a curriculum to foster scientific maturation of the ECIs. In addition to research skills, the Academy focuses on skills necessary to establish a successful research environment such as laboratory management, grant writing, and budget management. The Deans have also implemented program evaluation to permit continual improvement in the training curriculum and training activities. Under Dr. Maihle and Dr. Levine’s leadership, 13 ECIs have entered and benefitted from the Academy.

For the past 10 years, the highly committed ECIs, their Mentors, the Academy Dean, and the Assistant Dean have been diligently collaborating and networking as they work toward becoming the next generation of leaders in ovarian cancer research. Dr. Levine believes “by any measure, the Academy has been an overwhelming success and its reputation as an attractive and engaging training environment has grown exponentially.” Cumulatively, the ECIs have published more than 627 ovarian cancer research articles, presented at over 310 national conferences, mentored trainees, and served on both editorial boards and peer review panels. The ECIs have been awarded close to $47 million in research funding from various private and government funding sources.

The future of the Ovarian Cancer Academy is bright, Dr. Levine believes, and the Academy will continue to grow and produce “outstanding leaders and ambassadors for the ovarian cancer research community making significant progress toward the goal of eliminating ovarian cancer.”


Ovarian Cancer Academy Website:

Links to Public and Technical Abstracts:
OCRP Ovarian Cancer Academy Dean Award
The Ovarian Cancer Academy 2015-2020: A Team-Based Science Approach


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Last updated Thursday, May 26, 2022