NORDP 2017 Annual Research Development Conference

Back to Workshops List
Register Now

Improving Work-Life Balance in Research Development: Tools to Reduce Stress and Regain Purpose

(4 hours)

Many Research Development professionals face nearly constant stress due to our repeated work on extremely complex projects conducted under significant deadline pressure. Couple these work responsibilities with personality traits such as being “helpers” or having difficulty saying “no”, and with the demands of life outside of work, and it’s clear that Research Development professionals are likely to experience chronic stress and an accompanying sense of poor work-life balance. The purpose of this highly interactive workshop is to understand and identify participants’ own contributors to stress, explore a robust “tool-kit” for reducing stress and regaining work-life balance as Research Development professionals, establish a specific plan of action to reassign or reduce participants’ own stressors in both the short- and long-term, build participants’ familiarity with key mindfulness practices, and empower participants to make continued improvements in work-life balance over time.

In addition to individual and group work identifying stressors and available resources, this workshop will provide training and experiential learning in mindfulness -- moment to moment, non-judgmental awareness. Mindfulness practices have been standardized into Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), an 8 week program with mindfulness based practices such as body scan, awareness of breath, and walking meditations, along with group support. MBSR is a clinically proven approach to stress and pain reduction, as well as prevention, and reduction of burnout symptoms in a variety of populations, from teachers and nurses, to medical students and physicians. The mindfulness portion of the workshop will include experiential learning led by Dr. Liang, and will include practices such as mindful movement, awareness of breath, and walking meditation. She will then engage the group in inquiry, an important component of understanding mindfulness, where she will directly engage the audience in an interactive discussion of what was noticed from their direct experiences with the practices, and how these practices may be able to help with stress reduction and improvement of work-life balance. This workshop is aimed at NORDP members who are ready to make changes to improve their work-life balance while maintaining high work standards.


Joanna Downer, Ph.D.

Associate Dean for Research Development, Duke University School of Medicine

Joanna Downer founded the Duke University School of Medicine’s Office of Research Development in 2009, and in September 2015 was promoted to Associate Dean for Research Development. From 2009-2011, Dr. Downer was an office of one, balancing unrelated responsibilities with facilitating development of complex research grants led by any School of Medicine faculty member. Over the years and with the School’s support, she has expanded the office’s staff and services. Now the office of four full-time professionals provides research development and consulting services for both complex and individual investigator grants, and Dr. Downer also offers workshops in effective communication and grant writing, primarily at Duke. Since early 2013, she has been working steadfastly to improve her work-life balance by reducing her stress, removing her stressors, and preventing burnout.

Before launching Duke School of Medicine’s Research Development effort, Joanna worked in science writing & media relations, first at Duke Medicine and then at Johns Hopkins Medicine. At Duke, she covered basic and clinical cancer research, and at Hopkins she covered the biomedical sciences, genetic medicine, and cell engineering. She also has extensive experience in scientific editing. Joanna holds an MA and PhD in nuclear chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis. While in graduate school, she was a Mass Media Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, placed at Time Magazine in Washington, DC. Joanna also holds a BS with Honors in chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.

Ni-Cheng Liang, M.D.

Assistant Professor of Medicine and Medical Director for Pulmonary Services at the University of California San Diego’s (UCSD) Center for Pulmonary & Sleep Medicine; Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher with the UCSD Center for Mindfulness

A board-certified pulmonologist, Ni-Cheng Liang provides care for a variety of acute and chronic respiratory conditions, with a special focus on those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Dr. Liang devotes much of her time in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of COPD. Her multidisciplinary airway clinic is committed to educating patients with obstructive lung disease, and providing them with essential self-care and disease assessment tools. She is particularly interested in the use of integrative medicine modalities such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction to improve quality of life for patients with chronic lung disease and sleep disorders. She has presented her work at the American Thoracic Society, where she is also Co-Chair for the Integrative Therapies Interest Group. Dr. Liang is a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher at UCSD and is now in her fourth year as Course Director for the Mindfulness in Medicine elective for medical students at UCSD. Dr. Liang has presented on mindfulness based practices nearly two dozen times to a variety of audiences locally and nationally, from patients to medical trainees, physicians, and healthcare business administrators. Dr. Liang is a member of the leadership committees on wellness for the internal medicine and pediatrics residencies at UCSD.

Dr. Liang did her fellowship and residency training and served as chief medical resident at UCSD School of Medicine. She earned her medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and her bachelor’s degree from George Washington University in Washington D.C.