Written by Laurie Risner, PhD
The National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) and the American Association of American Medical Colleges AAMC recently collaborated to host a pilot workshop titled, “Optimizing Research Mentoring Relationships for Doctoral and Postdoctoral Scholars”. This workshop was generously funded by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and was held in conjunction with the AAMC annual GREAT (Graduate Research, Education, and Training Group) Meeting for graduate and postdoc leaders from across the country.
Dr. Nancy Schwartz, NRMN-CAN Director and Dean of Postdoctoral Affairs at the University of Chicago received the award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and brought together Dr. Christine Pfund, NRMN Contact PI, Dr. Melissa McDaniels, Co-Director of the NRMN Master Facilitator Initiative, Dr. Japera Johnson Hemming, NRMN Research Associate, and Dr. Irena Tartakovsky, Director of Constituent Engagement at the AAMC, to plan and implement this workshop.
The goals of the workshop were to: introduce national models being used to optimize research mentoring relationships for diverse trainees and their mentors, describe implementation approaches for mentor and mentee training, discuss creation of sustainable efforts in mentorship training, and increase outreach and interactions between GREAT group leaders and the NIH-funded Diversity Program Consortium initiatives including the NRMN.
Twenty-five invited leaders of the AAMC GREAT group attended this pilot workshop which started on Saturday evening, September 29th, with a networking dinner. To kick off the workshop, an introductory activity included table discussions on challenges faced at institutions in advancing best practices in mentoring. Each participant had completed a survey before the event which asked about mentor training practices and policies at their own institution. The survey results had been tabulated and were next presented and reactions were assessed from the attendees. For the final session on Saturday evening, Dr Christine Pfund presented a talk on “The National Landscape for Improving Mentorship” and answered questions from the group.
On the second day of the meeting, the group was challenged to come up with their own unique plans to implement mentor training programs at their institutions. A three step process was offered: 1. Share current successes and program models with their small group. 2. Make a plan of action. 3. Identify needed and available resources at their institution or within the AAMC GREAT group. Participants completed template documents of their current initiatives and of their plans, both of which have been collected to create a resource library.
In the final sessions, obstacles to implementing mentorship training workshops were discussed, along with potential solutions on how to move toward a sustainable change in training practices. A follow up survey after the event found that participants were overall very satisfied with the content of the workshop, appreciated learning about strategies for implementing mentor training, and came away with a plan of action to better mentor training at their institutions.