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AHA Postdoctoral Fellowship

AHA forms and instructions are updated for each deadline.
Check Supporting Documents for the required uploads for each program.
View the detailed Applications Instructions.

Application Deadline: November 2, 2017

The application must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. Central Time in Grants@Heart on the deadline date. The application will be submitted to the designated grant officer, who will submit it to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Reference Report Deadline: November 21, 2017

Award Activation:  July 1, 2018

Program Description and Eligibility

Success Rates

Statement of Purpose

To enhance the integrated research and clinical training of postdoctoral applicants who are not yet independent. The applicant must be embedded in an appropriate research group with the mentorship, support, and relevant scientific guidance of a research sponsor.

Recognizing the unique challenges that clinicians, in particular, experience in balancing research and clinical activity, this award mechanism aims to be as flexible as possible to enable applicants to develop academic careers in research alongside fulfilling clinical service commitments.

Science Focus

All basic, clinical, translational, behavioral and population research broadly related to cardiovascular function and disease and stroke, or to related clinical, behavioral, basic science, bioengineering or biotechnology, and public health problems.

Disciplines

AHA awards are open to the array of academic and health professionals. This includes but is not limited to all academic disciplines (biology, chemistry, mathematics, technology, physics, etc.) and all health-related professions (physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, dentists, physical and occupational therapists, statisticians, nutritionists, etc.).

Clinical, translational, population, and basic scientists are encouraged to apply. AHA maintains dedicated Peer Review Committees by science type and subject.

AHA strongly encourages applications by women, underrepresented minorities in the sciences, and those who have experienced varied and non-traditional career trajectories.

Target Audience

  • At the time of award activation, the applicant must hold a post-baccalaureate Ph.D. degree or equivalent, or a doctoral-level clinical degree, such as M.D., D.O., D.V.M., Pharm.D., D.D.S., or Ph.D. in nursing, public health, or other clinical health science.
  • At the time of award activation, the awardee may not be pursuing a doctoral degree.
  • At the time of award activation, the applicant may have no more than five years of research training or experience since obtaining a post-baccalaureate doctoral-level degree (excluding clinical training).
  • The awardee will be expected to devote at least 80 percent of full-time work either to research or to activities pursuant to independent research (instead of administrative, clinical duties that are not an integral part of the research training program, or teaching responsibilities).
  • This award is not intended for individuals of faculty rank.
  • Exceptions:
    • M.D. or M.D./Ph.D. with clinical responsibilities who needs instructor or similar title to see patients, but who will devote at least 80% full-time to research training.
    • R.N./Ph.D. with faculty appointment. Awardee will be expected to devote his/her time to research or activities directly related to the development into an independent researcher. All other eligibility criteria apply.

Sponsor

It is imperative that the fellow receive counsel and direction from a sponsor who is an established investigator (as outlined in the peer review criteria for the sponsor/training plan below) invested in the progress of the project.

A fellow must have primary responsibility for the writing and the preparation of the application, understanding the sponsor will play a significant part in providing guidance to the applicant.

AHA does not require but strongly encourages institutions to develop and use Individual Development Plans (IDPs) for AHA training programs. IDPs provide a structure for the identification and achievement of career goals.

The trainee’s career goals, as stated in “Part A - Personal Statement” of the fellow's biosketch, and the sponsor’s training plan must be complementary to one another and focused specifically on the individual. A standardized training plan will not be viewed favorably.

Citizenship

At the time of application, must have one of the following designations: 

  • U.S. citizen
  • Permanent resident
  • Pending permanent resident (any resident who has an approved I-765 form and has submitted an I-485 application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).
  • E-3 Visa - specialty occupation worker
  • F1 Visa - student
  • H1-B Visa - temporary worker in a specialty occupation
  • J-1 Visa - exchange visitor
  • O-1 Visa - temporary worker with extraordinary abilities in the sciences
  • TN Visa – North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional
  • G-4 Visa - family member of employee of international organizations

Applicants are not required to reside in the United States for any period before applying for American Heart Association funding. An awardee must maintain one of the designations listed above throughout the duration of the award.

Eligible Sponsoring Institution

American Heart Association research awards are limited to U.S.-based non-profit institutions, including medical, osteopathic and dental schools, veterinary schools, schools of public health, pharmacy schools, nursing schools, universities and colleges, public and voluntary hospitals and others that can demonstrate the ability to conduct the proposed research.

Applications will not be accepted for work with funding to be administered through any federal institution or work to be performed by a federal employee, except for Veterans Administrations employees.

Budget

AHA does not pay indirect costs on fellowships.

Annual Stipend - Matches NIH sliding scale, as follows:

Postdoctoral Stipend levels for FY2017 

Postdoctoral Stipend levels for FY2017
Years of ExperienceStipend
0$47,484
1$47,844
2$48,216
3$50,316
4$52,140
5$54,228
6$56,400
7 or more$58,560

+  $1,000 per year for health insurance

Project Support
$3,000 per year, in addition to the stipend. (No limit on any line item (travel, computer, equipment, etc.).
International travel is permitted and does not require prior AHA approval.

Award Duration
One or two years. May apply for a second two-year award. All eligibility criteria apply.
Maximum of four years of Association postdoctoral fellowship support per individual.

If applying for only one year of support, select the ONE YEAR form for this program before beginning the application in Grants@Heart.

Total Award Amount
$51,484 - $125,120

Restrictions

  • An applicant may submit only one AHA Postdoctoral Fellowship application per deadline.
  • An AHA Postdoctoral Fellowship awardee may hold only one AHA award at a time.
  • The awardee must resign the award if promoted to a staff or faculty position. However, an awardee with a faculty position remains eligible for this award if that awardee maintains clinical responsibilities under the supervision of an instructor.
  • An AHA Postdoctoral Fellow may not hold another AHA award concurrently. However, the awardee may submit an application for a subsequent AHA award during the last year of the project, and must resign the Postdoctoral Fellowship if another AHA award is activated.
  • The awardee may not hold a comparable award as a source of supplementation. An applicant who receives AHA funding, but has an ongoing training grant from another source, may defer the start of the AHA award up to six months in order to complete the existing fellowship.
  • An AHA Postdoctoral Fellowship awardee may not hold another AHA award concurrently. However, the awardee may submit an application for a subsequent AHA award during the last year of the project, and must resign the AHA Postdoctoral Fellowship if another AHA award is activated.
  • The awardee may not hold a comparable award as a source of supplementation. An applicant who receives AHA funding, but has an ongoing training grant from another source, may defer the start of the AHA award up to six months to complete the existing fellowship.
  • The sponsor/co-sponsor may sponsor no more than two AHA-funded fellows (pre-doctoral and postdoctoral) concurrently. Fellows who are part of an AHA Strategically Focused Research Network are excluded.

Submission of an application to the AHA with identical or significantly similar content as a submission by another investigator is prohibited. Also, the submission of an application to the AHA with identical or significantly similar content from a sponsor to a grant program and his/her fellow to fellowship program is prohibited. In such cases, both applications may be removed from funding consideration. If a grant application is submitted by the sponsor of a fellowship application, both applications may be funded if there is no duplication of aims.

Peer Review Criteria

An applicant is prohibited from contacting AHA peer reviewers. This is a form of scientific misconduct and will result in removal of the application from funding consideration and institutional notification of misconduct.

To judge the merit of the application, reviewers will comment on the following criteria. Address these in your proposal. Each criterion will account for one-third of the overall score.

Criterion 1 - Evaluation of the Applicant

  1. Does the applicant have potential for a research career?
  2. Are the applicant’s career plans specified in the application?
  3. Is this supported by the applicant's academic record and the assessment provided by the three letters of reference?
  4. Does the applicant have prior research experience and/or publications?
  5. Is there a clear rationale supporting the need for the proposed training?
  6. What is the sponsor's assessment of the applicant?

Criterion 2 - Sponsor/Training Plan and Environment

Because the trainee receives only a stipend from the award, additional research support for the proposed project MUST come from the sponsor's laboratory. Therefore, the proposed project will likely be related to the sponsor's funded research. The sponsor should clarify the role that the applicant played in the development of the proposal, the relationship of the proposed project to ongoing research in the sponsor's laboratory, and how the project will contribute toward the training and career development of the applicant. 

Sponsor/Training Plan

  1. Is the sponsor an independent investigator?
  2. Does the sponsor have the experience to direct the proposed research training, as evidenced by a track record regarding productivity, funding and prior trainees?
  3. Does the sponsor have adequate current funding to support the applicant’s project?
  4. Does the sponsor demonstrate familiarity with the applicant’s career and developmental goals and provide a comprehensive training plan that supports the applicant's progress towards his/her research career plans?
Environment
  1. Does the scientific environment in which the work will be done contribute to the probability of success for the training experience?
  2. Is there evidence of institutional commitment?

Criterion 3 - Evaluation of the Proposal

This section should provide a research project summary no longer than five pages: A carefully planned, systematic study aimed at clearly answering a question in cardiovascular and/or stroke research. It should be completed in collaboration with the proposed sponsor.

Note: The project will be assessed on the scientific merit, but equally as an integral part of the applicant's development as a researcher or related career aimed at building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

A new fellow may not have had adequate time to generate preliminary data; therefore, applicants may present preliminary data generated by the sponsor. The assessment of preliminary data, whether generated by the sponsor or the applicant, should be put into perspective so that bold new ideas and risk taking by beginning investigators are encouraged rather than stymied.

  1. Is the proposed project appropriate for the applicant, given his/her education, experience and career interests? Is the project the right balance of challenge, importance of the research question, and feasibility in relation to the applicant's experience and training? 
     
  2. Does the proposed research project summary:
    • Include the specific hypothesis of the research and describe the applicant's role on the project;
    • Provide a concise account of the subject matter, an overview of each part of the research plan, specific project aims and the methodology;
    • Reflect the significance of the project.
    • For all applications that include vertebrate animals or human subjects, applicants must explain how relevant biological variables, such as sex, are factored into the research design, analysis and reporting. Furthermore, strong justification from the scientific literature, preliminary data, or other relevant considerations, must be provided for applications proposing to study only one sex. 
       
    • Is there a plan for instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)? Taking into account the specific characteristics of the training program, the level of trainee experience, and the particular circumstances of the trainees, the reviewers will evaluate the adequacy of the proposed training in relation to the following: A sufficiently broad selection of subject matter, such as conflict of interest, authorship, data management, human subjects and animal use, laboratory safety, research misconduct, research ethics?
  3. Impact: How does this project address the mission of the AHA, and how likely will this support enhance PI career development in cardiovascular diseases and stroke?   

Interim Reporting - AHA requires both the awardee and sponsor to submit annual progress reports that include narrative description of accomplishments related to research and training, as well as an inventory of any abstracts and publications produced.