Back in 2010, I helped coordinate and was a one of the site facilitators for a randomized controlled trial at 16 academic health centers (June 2010 to July 2011) that used the curriculum Mentor Training for Clinical and Translational Researchers that was derived from Entering Mentoring. Based on that opportunity I became engaged with NRMN.
Which of NRMN’s program(s) have you participated in?
I am involved with the mentor training aspects of NRMN. With other master facilitators I deliver around 5 mentor training sessions a year, about half for faculty mentors and half for postdoctoral mentors. I also do an occasional train-the-trainer.
Describe your role in being a Master Facilitator and tell us a little about your experience in that role.
I really enjoy my role as a training facilitator. Everyone tends to go away with at least one way to be a more effective mentor. I particularly like the ability to deliver training at the Texas Medical Center (TMC) which is sponsored by the Gulf Coast Consortium. I will run into faculty that have been through the training around the TMC campus and hear how it has impacted their mentoring relationships (although sometimes it takes a little prying).
Have you participated in other similar programs in the past? If so, how was your experience with NRMN different or unique?
I had a role in developing mentoring programs involving great mentors during my positions in the postdoctoral program office at New York University School of Medicine and with the Science Alliance at the New York Academy of Science around a decade ago. While those experiences were great, I think NRMN’s evidenced based structure of training and tools available combined with learning from the accumulated wisdom of the participants makes for very productive and rewarding experience.
If someone called you and asked, “Why should I become involved with NRMN?” how would you respond?
To play off a line in one of my favorite development books, Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott, I would tell them, mentorship is a series of opportunities to create value for ourselves and others by engaging in mutual development. Our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one opportunity at a time. While no single opportunity is guaranteed to transform your future, or your life, any single opportunity can. If this is so, isn’t getting the most from each mentoring opportunity worth it?
How has your experience with NRMN changed the way you approach your career in the sciences?
Working within the education and training area with a focus on talent development and lots of opportunities to interact one-on-one with students, fellows, and faculty, NRMN has furthered my own ability to be a better mentor and colleague by learning from the faculty and postdocs I have trained and reflective practice. From a narrower training perspective, I have come to appreciate the challenge in producing evidence-based approaches to training and how larger efforts like NRMN can make a difference.
Describe a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
I don’t have just one, but would have to say that the ones that have required me to stretch the most are most rewarding. The first significant stretch was being a caregiver for my father before his death from cancer when I was sixteen-years old and the subsequent challenge of making my desire to go to a four-year university possible. The costs of cancer treatment and being from a blue collar income family meant I needed to cover my own college costs. I spent nights after high school at a community college looking through funding sources and applying for every grant or scholarship I was eligible for (this was pre-World Wide Web). In college I also had to balance my courses and research with a string of jobs. It worked out, and I gained skills and had experiences that I continue to build upon.
What makes you an ideal mentor?
I am an ideal mentor to many, but don’t think I am, or could be, for all. I tell mentees that my desire is to get them to a place where their potential is unleashed with me or someone who is better suited to mentor them. I want people to succeed and there is opportunity for all of us to do so. For each mentee and depending on what the mentee is looking for, my goal is to advance the relationship from teaching, to advising, to coaching, to independence.
Each morning, what do you look most forward to in the day?
Well, coffee is the first thing, but I don’t think that is why you asked this question. Over the past year, I have taken the opportunity each morning to look at the day and think about what may be the biggest challenge of the day, why that is, and how I am going to improve by addressing it. I also have made it a point each day to show gratitude to someone or for something. I have found this helps make me more mindful and resilient – and I think it helps those around me too!
Is there anything you’d like to share about yourself with a potential future mentee?
My mentoring philosophy is that mentoring is an experiential learning process in which both (or all) of us are active participants. For us to get the most from the experience, be willing to develop your self-awareness as well as skills, be flexible, be responsible, be willing to make mistakes and to have discomfort, be willing to learn, and be rewarded in doing so.
What is your current position and what is your favorite aspect of it?
As we progress through a reorganization at my institution, my position is changing soon with a future role as director of education and training. In my new role I will work with our vice president for education and training and a new team to help prepare our 7000 students, fellows, and trainees at MD Anderson Cancer Center for careers in healthcare and biomedical sciences. My favorite aspect is that I will have the opportunity to co-create with my team education and training programs that meet the needs of students and trainees looking for careers as healthcare and biomedical professional and supporting continuous professional development for the larger healthcare community.
Anything else that you would like to share?
Sure, I will get my appreciation in for today by saying I have appreciated the opportunity to engage with the individuals in the NRMN from my fellow facilitators to the participants in the training. It is great to be around talented individuals committed to a practice that at its core is about caring for others’ wellbeing and success.
Interview by: Katie Stinson
Edited by: Alexis Short & Damaris Javier