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Omissions from a National Institute of Health (NIH) biosketch

Prince, Alice S.

The standard National Institute of Health (NIH) biosketch provides a snapshot of an academic’s achievements, but mine, like most, lists only the highpoints and not many of the other major factors that influenced my career in academic medicine. A review of some notable omissions may provide some useful insights. A molecular biology major in college, my several summers of bench research on cyanobacteria probably helped get me into medical school by offsetting the Cs in physics and organic chemistry (Wellesley didn’t do grade inflation). I did not appreciate that all those pathways require rote memorization, a skill I picked up later, which is now made unnecessary by Wikipedia. Nor does my biosketch include the hours I spent poring over the writings of Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman while struggling with my own personal involvement in the turbulent political scene of the ‘70s. That was simply listed as “honors research in political philosophy.” Once in medical school, also amidst a background of political upheaval, I sought out a summer research position in a lab, which in retrospect provided a setting in which I had some control. Bench research provided a sense of rationality and order: testable hypotheses, controls, and tangible outcomes, some of which were actually publishable. The social and political issues then, as now, seemed insurmountable. This part of my biosketch that delineates postgraduate training omits all of the distractions of ongoing political turmoil and suggests I learned molecular biology skills as well as clinical infectious diseases. It fails to mention the most notable achievement of my fellowships, namely the births of my sons.


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June 30, 2018