Faculty Development: Mentorship | School of Medicine

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Promotion and Tenure reference guidelines
This grid, published as Appendix B of the promotion and tenure guidelines, outlines specific actions faculty members can take to make satisfactory, substantial and outstanding progress in scholarship, teaching and service.

Getting started

For the mentee

In today's complex and often highly competitive world of academic medicine, having a mentor or a team of mentors can mean the difference between success and failure. A recent systematic review of mentoring in academic medicine suggests that mentorship can have an important influence on personal development, career guidance, career choice and research productivity, including publication and grant success[1].  

  • Mentoring can help to ensure success in a wide variety of situations, including addressing questions such as:
    • How to ask the right research question 
    • How to best design a new experiment 
    • How to develop a clinical or educational program 
    • How to find needed resources 
  • By serving in the role of guide, coach, or ally, mentors can answer a mentee's questions as they arise, ensuring steady progress and completion of project milestones.
  • By serving in the role of advocate, a mentor can help a mentee navigate the terrain of academia in order to move forward professionally.
  • By providing knowledgeable and strategic advice, a mentor can serve to empower a junior faculty member, postdoc, or fellow to pursue an innovative opportunity. The interest and support of a mentor often provide the mentee with both the confidence and practical knowledge to undertake a new and exciting challenge. 

[1] Sambunjak D, Strauss SE, Marusie A. Mentoring in academic medicine: a systematic review. JAMA 2006; 296:1103-1115.

For the mentor

Mentoring provides the mentor with numerous benefits:

  • Mentoring can enhance his or her own personal and professional knowledge while teaching and learning from the mentee.
  • By providing guidance, support, advice, strategic feedback, and other insights to a mentee, the mentor can learn and enhance leadership skills.
  • Mentees often bring a fresh perspective to a difficult problem, and serving as a mentor can provide a renewed sense of purpose in meeting the challenges of leading an educational endeavor, clinical initiative or research program.
  • While working with a mentee, the mentor also has the opportunity to gain a new talented colleague – one with whom the mentor may collaborate for years to come. Importantly, a mentor is provided with a sense of satisfaction in contributing to a legacy of developing the next generation of creative faculty.

This section adapted with permission from the Institute for Clinical Research Education Mentoring Resources, University of Pittsburgh.

Finding mentors to meet your career development needs can be an overwhelming task. You will more than likely require a number of mentors – a career mentor, a research mentor, or a personal life mentor. A few helpful tips will start you off on the right track.

  • In order to get the most from your mentoring relationship, develop a mind-set that allows you to learn from everyone around you. 
  • Don’t limit your mentors to people who look like you and think like you. Often the best mentors are those who can see many sides of complex issues and offer new lines of sight.
  • Effective mentors listen closely for what isn’t said and ask great questions. They are curious and empathic and free from conflict of interest.
  • Seek mentors who are able to provide insights about your strengths and weaknesses and challenge you to move beyond your comfort zone.
  • Look for individuals who have skills complementary to your weaknesses. Have a frank discussion with a potential mentor about his or her skills and weaknesses.
  • Look for individuals around you who ask the tough provocative questions and give fair and honest feedback.
  • Look for individuals who can serve as your advocate and open doors to new learning opportunities, resources and career connections.
  • Understand a potential mentor’s national and institutional commitments.
  • Check for a track record of successful research funding or academic scholarship in your area of interest.  Use NIH and OHSU databases to check for potential mentors funded in your area of interest.  Read publications for more information about a potential mentor’s expertise and focus.
  • Consider whether multiple mentors or a team of mentors that convene together are best for your mentoring needs.

We recommend that you discuss and clarify expectations in your mentoring relationships to maximize your time together and eliminate questions about the perceptions, views, and responses coming from mentees or mentors. By developing and agreeing upon expectations, you can minimize the chance of running into potential problems.

Clarify roles and responsibilities

  • Clarify in advance whether you are seeking a limited time commitment for a specific piece of advice or an ongoing relationship. A busy mentor may be willing to help you with a single situation but would otherwise not have time for an ongoing relationship.
  • Clarify the specific need or question for which you are seeking advice at initial contact. This helps both the mentor and the mentee determine the possibility of a mutual relationship.
  • Evaluate as soon as possible whether the fit will be good: how hard/easy it was to meet the mentor, the value of the mentor's feedback, and the ease of interaction.
  • Mentors should be realistic about what they can do for their mentees and should help the mentees understand what kinds of assistance they can expect.
  •  Mentors should explore what mentees need and help them develop a productive balance between seeking help and taking on more responsibility as they move toward independence.
  • Clarify expectations regarding papers and other scholarly work.  Determine authorship on key papers up front.

Set realistic goals and develop a plan

Mentors can help mentees develop a set of realistic goals and plans. You may want to consider creating a contract. 

  • Work together to develop an academic plan that includes short-term goals, long-term goals, and a time frame for reaching these goals.
  • Agree on a time to update progress.
  • Meet regularly to formally discuss the mentee's progress as well as any additional training and experiences needed to achieve the defined goals.
  • Agree to modify the academic plan if necessary.

Have realistic expectations.

Realize that a single mentor relationship probably will not satisfy all your needs over the course of your career, and that you need to build your own personal “coaching staff.”

Ask for specific advice and be receptive to input.

Consider the perspective others offer you, even if it is not what you want to hear.

Evaluate feedback and advice.

You don’t need to do everything your mentor says. Strategies and behaviors that work for your mentor may not work for you. Act on advice that fits for you.

Evaluate the relationship.

Is it difficult to contact the mentor? Does s/he cancel meetings at the last minute?

Take responsibility for the relationship.

If you want to have a mentor, be a mentor to others.  Cultivate awareness of what you have to give back in a mentoring relationship. If possible, participate in learning opportunities and other mutually interesting functions with your mentor, even if this is a way just to keep in touch.

Keep in touch.

Be sure to communicate with your mentor. Give your mentor progress reports by email, try to see her or him at institutional events, or meet for coffee or lunch.

Be considerate.

Be prompt to meetings. If you need to reschedule, give your mentor plenty of advance notice (at least 24 hours). Recognize that your mentor is busy, and respect her or his time.

Be prepared.

Respect your mentor’s limited time and come to meetings prepared and organized.  Agree on what work should be completed for review.  Write down your list of questions.

Establish the nature of the relationship.

This needs to be done in conjunction with the mentor. Set specific goals for the relationship – what will you get out of it? How often do you want to meet?

Realize that relationships are dynamic.

Your relationship with your mentor may change over time, and be prepared to make changes or end the relationship if necessary.

Take advantage of opportunities to work with peers and senior colleagues.  

Don’t discount the value of peers in providing mentoring.

Maintain confidentiality.

Your mentoring relationship is a personal one. You need to establish with your mentor the degree to which this advice is kept confidential.

Express appreciation.  

Let your mentor know when s/he has helped you, and express appreciation for this guidance.  Be aware of what you have to give back to the relationship.

Evaluate your skills and time.

Evaluate whether you are the right person for the role, in terms of both expertise and time. Also, keep in mind that while you cannot be everything to a mentee, it is likely that you will be able to perform a specific mentoring function.

Say no, if you want to say no.

If you are contacted and feel that you are NOT the best person, suggest someone else with expertise.

Be available.

Be as flexible as possible about being available to your mentees.  Experiment with engaging in "mentoring conversations" one at a time.

Be curious.

Practice conscious listening to help mentees figure out what they want. Empower them in their own careers.

Be courteous.

Give sufficient notice before changing meetings. Respond to emails and telephone calls promptly.

Be in touch.

Try to keep in touch regularly, through emails or phone.

Be honest about the relationship.

Clarify your role and what the mentee expects of you. Clarify your own boundaries – psychologically and in your external world. Let your mentee know if you think the relationship needs to change, due to shifts in her needs, pressures on your time, etc.

Play a role in career advancement.

Talk about your mentee’s accomplishments within the institution, introduce them to others, and recommend them for new opportunities. Share the unwritten rules of the academic institution. Empower your mentees to choose roles that require them to demonstrate skills that are requisite for higher-level positions and responsibilities.  Review where your mentees are in relation to promotion and tenure (e.g., scholarship, teaching, service).

Help establish goals.

What do you and your mentee hope to accomplish?  Set up realistic timelines for project milestones.

Give feedback.

Offer comments that are specific and honest, and that address strengths and positive attributes as well as areas for improvement.

Uphold professional standards.

Establish a relationship of respect and trust.  Provide consistency of presence and temperament.  Appreciate and respect the difference.

Get your own personal "coaching staff" in place to support you.

Consider your own needs and "put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others."

Digging deeper

General Mentoring

  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund and Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty. 2nd ed. Research Triangle Park, NC, and Chevy Chase, MD: Burroughs Wellcome Fund and Howard Hughes Medical Institute; 2004.
  • Sambunjak D, Straus SE, Marusic A. Mentoring in academic medicine: a systematic review. JAMA 2006;296:1103-1115.
  • Ramani S, Gruppen L, Krajic Kachur E. Twelve tips for developing effective mentors. Med Teach 2006;28(5):404-408.
  • Lee A, Dennis C, Campbell P. Nature's guide for mentors. Nature 2007;447(7146):791-797.
  • Bickel J. Career development as a long-distance hike. J Gen Intern Med 2008;24(1):118-121.
  • Zerzan JT, Hess R, Schur E, Phillips RS, Rigotti N. Making the most of mentors: A guide for mentees. Acad Med 2009;84(1):140-144.
  • Straus SE, Johnson MO, Marquez C, Feldman MD. Characteristics of successful and failed mentoring relationships: a qualitative study across two academic health centers. Acad Med 2013;88:82–89.
  • Lord JA, Mourtzanos E, McLaren K, Murray SB. Kimmel RJ, Cowley DS. A peer mentoring group for junior clinician educators: four years' experience. Acad Med 2012; 87(3):378-383.
  • DeCastro R Sambuco D, Ubel PA, Stewart A, Jagsi R. Mentor networks in academic medicine: moving beyond a dyadic conception of mentoring for junior faculty researchers. Acad Med 2013;88(4):488-496.

Mentoring Conversation

  • Stone D, Patton B, Heen S. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. 1999, Penguin.
  • Patterson K, Grenny J, McMillan R, Switzler A. Crucial Conversation: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. 2002, McGraw-Hill.
  • Rabatin, J, et al. A year of mentoring in academic medicine. J Gen Intern Med 2004;19:569-573.
  • Gillespie SM, Thornburg LL, Caprio TV, Medina-Walpole A. Love letters: an anthology of constructive relationship advice shared between junior mentees and their mentors. J Grad Med Educ 2012;4(3):287-289.
  • Bickel J, Rosenthal SL. Difficult issues in mentoring: recommendations on making the “undiscussable” discussable. Acad Med2011;86:1229–1234.

Mentoring Across Differences

  • Thomas D. The truth about mentoring minorities: race matters. Harvard Bus Rev 2001;79(4): 98-112.
  • Bickel J, Brown AJ. Generation X: Implications for faculty recruitment and development in academic health centers. Acad Med 2005; 80:205–210.
  • Lewellen-Williams, C. et al. The POD: A new model for mentoring underrepresented minority faculty. Acad Med 2006; 81-275-279.
  • Bickel J. The work that remains at the intersection of gender and career development. Arch Phys Med Rehab 2007;88:683-6.
  • Bickel J. When "You're not the boss of me": Mentoring Across generational differences. In Mentoring: Program Development, Keel M. (ed), Nova Science Publishers Inc., 2009: 143-152.
  • Ibarra H, Carter NM, Silva C. Why men still get more promotions than women. Harvard Bus Rev September 2010;88: 80-85.
  • Beech BM, Calles-Escandon J, Hairston KG, Langdon SE, Latham-Sadler BA, Bell RA. Mentoring programs for underrepresented minority faculty in academic medical centers: a systematic review of the literature. Acad Med 2013;88(4):541-549.

Evaluating Mentoring

  • Berk RA, Berg J, Mortimer R, Walton-Moss B, Yeo TP. Measuring the effectiveness of faculty mentoring relationships. Acad Med 2005; 80:66–71.
  • Straus SE, Chatur F, Taylor M. Issues in the mentor–mentee relationship in academic medicine: a qualitative study. Acad Med 2009; 84:135–139.
  • Fleming M, et al. The Mentoring Competency Assessment: validation of a new instrument to evaluate skills of research mentors. Acad Med2013 88(7):1002-1008

Mentoring Links

  • UCSF Mentor Development Program: Course Materials
    • This program provides innovative curriculum for training mid-career and early senior research faculty to become the next generation of confident effective clinical and translational mentors. The CTSI MDP has created an integrated environment for senior mentors and mentors-in-training, encouraging creative and innovative networking, discussing a range of mentoring challenges and a myriad of solutions, developing a toolbox of strategies, and using discussions and collective experiences to build a community of mentoring excellence.
  • Institute for Clinical Research Education Mentoring Resources, University of Pittsburgh
  • Collaboration and Team Science (NIH Ombudsman)
    • An excellent resource for team research provides practical tools for download such as an Agreement Template and a Team Science Field Guide. This web site includes topics that range from preparing yourself for team science and forming a research team to strategies to overcome challenges.