Katherine (Kate) Elfer, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Katherine (Kate) Elfer, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Entry Year

Doctoral Degree

Ph.D., Biomedical Engineering, Tulane University (2018)

Master's Degree

M.P.H., The Johns Hopkins University (2020)

Research Interests

Digital Pathology, Medical Devices, Regulation of Diagnostic Devices, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Image Perception

Primary Preceptor/Branch

Brandon Gallas, Ph.D., Division of Imaging, Diagnostics, and Software Reliability; Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories; Center for Devices and Radiological Health; U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Program Spotlight

Dr. Kate Elfer Uses a Training Rotation at NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health to Learn about Sex and Gender in Research

October 4, 2022

In June 2022, Dr. Kate Elfer, fourth-year fellow with CPFP and third-year fellow with Interagency Oncology Task Force (a program between FDA and NCI), started working with NIH’s Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) through a part-time training rotation. A training rotation is a temporary position, part-time or full-time, where the fellow joins another laboratory, office, or agency to gain additional skills and knowledge not available through their primary appointment. Dr. Elfer works under the mentorship of Dr. Sarah Temkin (associate director for clinical research) and Dr. Elizabeth Barr (social and behavioral scientist administrator).

In their fourth year with CPFP, Dr. Elfer began considering how to best utilize their remaining time in the fellowship. Their work at the Food and Drug Administration involves researching methods of measuring performance between humans and artificial intelligence algorithms in digital pathology. “I realized that many of my research teams were very one-dimensional in composition and thinking—we’re engineers, mathematicians, and algorithm developers. Frequently, I’d attend a presentation for a diagnostic algorithm for breast, cervical, or other women’s diseases, and the development research team would be men. I knew there were other factors in the data and analysis to consider but was unsure how to identify and use them,” Dr. Elfer says. Through their training rotation with ORWH, they have received training in using sex as a biological variable and have initiated a research project to integrate sex and gender research within their current work. They also are integrated into ORWH’s Clinical Research Section by assisting with developing future research questions and participating in the office’s journal club.

In addition, Dr. Elfer has pursued experiences in the career development and education work of ORWH. These experiences included participation in NIH-wide working groups, such as the Working Group on Women in Biomedical Careers, in which they would “learn by listening.” Through these meetings, they have learned about conducting portfolio analyses and constructing funding proposals. Dr. Elfer plans to use these skills to plan their future research program as they transition to an independent research position.

The CPFP is always looking for additional opportunities to connect our fellows with new professional experiences. If you are interested in offering a training rotation to a Cancer Prevention Fellow, please email: ncicpfpnews@mail.nih.gov.

Katherine (Kate) Elfer
NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) trainee