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Early Career Development Course

Defining, Adapting & Promoting Your Professional Identity


The Early Career Development Course is a perennial favorite at ACRM that connects early career rehabilitation researchers with prominent and accomplished professionals. The course will provide opportunities to learn from experts in interdisciplinary team science, government agency representatives, and distinguished scientists who will provide insights through didactic presentations, panel discussions, small group discussions, and one-on-one networking.

Who Should Attend?

  • Early career researchers, clinician scientists, and clinicians interested in starting a research agenda will find the course especially beneficial.
  • Attendees range from graduate students nearing the completion of their degree, to postdoctoral scholars, and junior faculty.
  • The course program changes annually, enabling attendees to enjoy a unique and informative experience year after year.

Keynote Speaker

Badia Ahad-Legardy

Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs
Loyola University Chicago
Flossmoor, Illinois, United States


  • Brian Downer, PhD

    Associate Professor
    University of Texas Medical Branch
    Galveston, Texas, United States


Ralph Nitkin, PhD

Deputy Director, National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, NICHD
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Maryland, United States

Vincy Chan, PhD, MPH

Assistant Scientist
KITE-Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University Health Network
Toronto, United States

Anne Ordway, PhD

Program Specialist
National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)/Administration for Community Living
Washington, District of Columbia, United States

Kelli L. LaCroix

Student/Graduate Assistant
University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston
Fort worth, Texas, United States

Stephanie L. Silveira, PhD

Assistant Professor
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas, United States


Sina Safayi, DVM, PhD


Daniel Daneshvar, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor and Assistant Chair for Research
Harvard Medical School Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, United States

Molly Fuentes, MD, MS

Assistant Professor
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington, United States

Patricia A. Dorn, PhD

Director, Rehabilitation Research and Development Service
Department of Veterans Affairs
Washington, District of Columbia, United States


Alexandra Aaronson, MD, MSCI

Research Neuropsychiatrist
Edward J Hines VA Hospital
River Forest, Illinois, United States

Michael W. Williams, PhD

Assistant Professor
University of Houston, United States

About this Course

Your professional identity is constantly evolving and will change as you advance in your career, take on new roles and responsibilities, reflect on past experiences, and re-evaluate goals. Given the importance that professional identity development has on career outcomes, the theme of the 2022 Early Career Development Course is defining, adapting, and promoting your professional identity. The target audience for this instructional course is students, fellows, early career faculty and clinicians, and other early career scholars. 

What to Expect

The course will take place on Tuesday 8 November from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm at the Chicago Hilton. We will start with opening remarks from ECDC task force chair Brian Downer, PhD. The 2022 ECDC will be highlighted by a keynote presentation by Dr. Ahad-Legardy, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Professor in the Department of English at Loyola Chicago. She will share insights into how life experiences, values, and beliefs can shape our professional identities and ways we can advocate for our professional needs as we develop our identities.

Funding Agency Panel

Following the keynote presentation will be the Funding Agency Panel. This year’s panel includes representatives from the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (Ralph Nitkin, PhD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (Patricia Dorn, PhD), National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (Anne Ordway, PhD). Each panelist will summarize the policies, career opportunities, and research priorities at their agency. These presentations will be followed by a Q & A session with the audience.

Early Career Scholars Panel

After a 25-minute networking break, we will reconvene for the Early Career Scholars Panel. The panelists include Stephanie Silveira, PhD (University of North Texas), Alexandra Aaronson, MD (Northwestern University), Daniel Daneshvar, MD, PhD (Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital), and Vincy Chan, PhD (KITE-Toronto Rehabilitation Institute). Panelists will share their experiences with rejection, resilience, and imposter phenomenon. These presentations will be followed by a Q & A session with the audience that is moderated by Reza Ehsanian, MD, PhD.

Mentoring Lunch

Attendees will then participate in a mentoring lunch with small-group discussions. This session is an opportunity for attendees to ask questions to the speakers and panelists in an informal setting. Topics will include grant writing and research funding, career planning, developing a biosketch, CV, personal statement, and other professional documents, and navigating the job market.

Panel Session

The afternoon portion of the ECDC will consist of a 75-minute panel session on career planning for early-career scholars. This will include a keynote presentation on career planning by Dr. Sina Safayi, Director of Career Development and Industry Outreach at Rush University. This will be followed by a moderated panel discussion with Kelli LaCroix (University of Texas Medical Branch), Molly Fuentes, MD, MS (University of Washington, Seattle), and Michael W. Williams, PhD (University of Houston). The panelists represent scholars in different career settings (e.g., academia, clinical) and career stages (e.g., student, faculty). The panelists will briefly describe their strategies for developing their career plans, ways in which they have had to adapt their career plans, and strategies for sticking to their plans. The session will conclude with questions from the audience.

Closing Remarks

The course will finish with closing remarks and the formal transition to Jiabin Shen, PhD, ECDC task force chair.

Early Career Development Course Flyer

Learning Objectives

  • Describe ways to identify areas for professional development and how to advocate for your professional needs.
  • List strategies and resources to develop a career development plan.
  • Summarize current policies, career opportunities, and research priorities at federal funding agencies.

Register for the Early Career Development Course Today!

ACRM MEMBER: Regular $399, On-site $499
NON-MEMBER: Regular $499, On-site $599

This course is INCLUDED in World Pass - the Best Value