So If We Build It, Will They Come? The Northeast Evidence-Based Mentoring Training Consortium

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By Emily Utzerath


Drs. Hal Strelnick and Chinazo Cunningham of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine wanted to test a hypothesis. What would happen if they trained small teams of faculty and then provided them with modest financial and logistical support? Would it result in the successful implementation of mentor training programs at their home institutions? Would the trained faculty leaders join forces and foster a regional peer mentoring consortium?


In 2015, the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) awarded Drs. Strelnick and Cunningham a grant to find out. They established the Northeast Evidence-Based Mentoring Training Consortium (NE-EMT), which includes the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Columbia University Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York University School of Medicine, Rockefeller University, University of Maryland School of Public Health, and the University at Albany.


Doctor Strelnick reflects on his experiences with mentors and what it means to be a part of a national movement:


“As an academic family physician in community and social medicine, I’ve had a variety of supervisors but few and transient mentors. I learned most from mentors in middle school, college, and residency. By the time mentoring was recognized as an essential ingredient of success, I was a full professor and expected to mentor others. Receiving the NRMN pilot award and hosting our two train-the-trainer workshops was for me the culmination of a long process to find my role in what has become a national movement in academic medicine of recognizing and improving mentoring at all levels.”


Drs. Strelnick and Cunningham partnered with NRMN’s Mentor Training Core to offer train-the-trainer workshops for research mentors this summer to a cohort of 51 diverse senior faculties. Dr. Strelnick was not surprised that the majority of workshop participants identify as women:


“Just this month (August 2016) Academic Medicine published a thematic issue on 'Gender Diversity in Academic Medicine Careers' that featured another study by Donna Ginther and her colleagues on the inequitable outcomes of NIH awards by race/ethnicity and gender. It was her team’s work that originally prompted the NIH to create the National Research Mentoring Network. This most recent study suggests what they called a 'double bind' barrier for women of color. Another study in the same issue highlighted the preferences of women faculty regarding mentor similarity, where all racial and ethnic groups ranked as most important having mentors in the same department and institution; not career or personal interests or gender or race/ethnicity. I was not surprised that three-quarters of our faculty participants were women from all faculty ranks. Like me, they know how important mentoring is to professional success and how hard it often is to find. Thus, they disproportionately took this opportunity to learn evidence-based mentoring themselves and spread the knowledge and skills. All five of our NRMN workshop facilitators were women, who all received rave reviews from our participants in our evaluation.”


To fulfill the demand for this training, two 10-hour workshops were offered. In May, Dr. Christine Sorkness (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Dr. Anne Marie Weber-Main (University of Minnesota), and Emily Utzerath (University of Wisconsin-Madison) led a training at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. In July, Sorkness facilitated a similar training with Dr. Kelly Diggs-Andrews (American Society for Microbiology) at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, New Jersey. Drs. J.P. Sanchez and Maria Soto-Greene, collaborators on the NRMN pilot award, hosted this Rutgers event.


The 10-hour workshops were strategically divided into two parts of a single day. In the morning, participants experienced the evidence-based research mentor training and discussed topics,  such as  aligning expectations, addressing equity and inclusion, and fostering independence. In the afternoon, they practiced facilitating research mentor training and explored strategies for implementing these sessions at their home institutions. In a post-workshop survey, 97 percent of participants rated the workshops overall as “very good” or “excellent.”


After completing the training, all participants were invited to apply for mini-grants to support their plans to implement mentor training at their home institutions. The following individuals each received $1,200 toward these efforts:


Harolyn Belcher, M.D., M.H.S. (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine)

Doctor Belcher will offer an eight-hour workshop during the 2016-17 academic year. Since the Kennedy Krieger Institute is approved to award American Psychological Association credits, she will apply to receive eight continuing education credits for the workshop. She expects to train 25 junior and senior faculty who previously participated in the Center for Diversity in Public Health Leadership Training.


Leonor Corsino, M.D., M.H.S. (Duke University)

Doctor Corsino will offer an eight-hour training as a full-day workshop in Spring 2017. This training is complementary to an existing two-day mentoring retreat sponsored by the Duke School of Medicine’s Office of Research Mentoring. They expect to train 25 faculty. Corsino has received approval for matching funds from Duke’s Office of Faculty Development.


Aileen McGinn, Ph.D. (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)

McGinn will offer an eight-hour training as two half-day workshops, one for research mentors and another for their mentees. The morning workshop will target mentees who are currently being co-mentored or are involved in team science. The afternoon workshop will be tailored to the mentors of these mentees. They expect to train 60 mentees and mentors in Spring 2017. She will be assisted by Dr. Johanna Daily who is a Co-Investigator with Drs. Strelnick and Cunningham.


Jenny Lin, M.D., and Juan Wisnivesky, M.D., Dr.P.H. (Mount Sinai School of Medicine)

Drs. Lin and Wisnivesky will offer a four-hour training as four, one-hour workshops to clinician-investigators and clinician-educators. They expect to train 25 junior and senior faculty in Fall 2016.


Frederick Kaskel, M.D., and Michal Melamed, M.D. (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)

Drs. Kaskel and Melamed will offer an eight-hour training as four, two-hour workshops, as part of the weekly combined pediatric and internal medicine nephrology seminars. They expect to train 40 postdoctoral fellows and faculty during the 2016-17 academic year and match the award with $1,000 from the Nephrology Education Fund.


Susan Moscou, F.N.P., M.P.H., Ph.D. (Mercy College)

Moscou will offer 16 hours of training as four half-day workshops. They expect to train 10 senior faculty during the 2016-17 academic year. Dr. Moscou received a faculty fellows award from Mercy to develop a mentor program for junior through senior faculty.


Carol Newlon, Ph.D., and Maria Soto-Greene, M.D. (Rutgers New Jersey Medical School)

Drs. Newlon and Soto-Greene will offer an 8-hour training as two, 4-hour workshops to clinician-educators with CME credit. They are currently collaborating with the NRMN Mentor Training Core and others to adapt existing training materials for clinician-educators. They expect to train 25 senior faculty in Fall 2016. According to Drs. Newlon and Soto-Greene, the timing of this workshop is excellent because Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences now requires that each of its schools develop a systematic  approach to faculty mentoring.


The NE-EMT is collaborating with the NRMN Mentor Training Core team to evaluate the success of this regional consortium model and will collaborate to disseminate the results.


Dr. Strelnick would like to extend a special thanks to Chris Sorkness, who did double duty co-leading both workshops, and Anne Marie Weber-Main and Emily Utzerath who, with Sorkness, co-led the Einstein workshop and Kelly Diggs-Andrews, who co-led the Rutgers workshop; and our special recognition goes to Deans J.P. Sanchez and Maria Soto-Greene, our Rutgers hosts and partners, and Mercedes Padilla, who handled all our Newark logistics. Dee Acevedo printed and bound all the curricula for both workshops and prepared all the name tags for the Einstein workshop.


Doctor Hal Strelnick with workshop participants at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.


Small group discussions during facilitator training at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.