On September 29, 2015, Julianne Imperato-McGinley, MD, program director of the Weill Cornell Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) welcomed mentoring experts Joan M. Lakoski, PhD, and Robert J. Milner, PhD, back to the Griffis Faculty Club for their popular and successful workshop Finding and Navigating Mentoring: How to Find an Effective Mentor.
“For those who seek to build a career in academic medicine, mentors play crucial roles as teachers, advocates, and counselors on the path to success,” Dr. Imperato observed. “At the CTSC, students incorporate mentoring into their training by building mentor teams that allow them to draw from experts from across departments and institutions. Through these strong relationships, students foster opportunities for multi-disciplinary training, collaboration, and innovation.”
In this one-day workshop, Dr. Lakoski, Vice President of Research and Graduate Education and Chief Science Officer at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), and Dr. Milner, Associate Vice Provost for Professional Development and Professor of Neurology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, led attendees through a series of exercises and discussions to pinpoint their individual mentoring needs in order to develop communication skills and strategies that will help them achieve their goals. By debunking several myths about mentoring, the two hope to help others make better use of this powerful tool for professional development.
For example, contrary to those who think that mentoring is an optional strategy or that one only needs one mentor, Drs. Lakoski and Milner made the case that mentoring is essential to success in contemporary academic medicine, with many benefits, and that most individuals will need multiple mentors to guide them in their research. These mentors may serve different functions and offer different kinds of support, depending on the needs of the moment in one’s career.
Another myth is that mentoring relationships just happen by circumstance. In fact, Drs. Lakoski and Milner argue, mentoring relationships can be cultivated, requiring mentees to have strong communication skills; clear expectations, goals, and preferences; and a plan for finding, approaching, and sustaining a relationship with potential mentors.
In addition to asking lab directors, division chiefs, and colleagues for recommendations, and conducting literature searches through PubMed or funded research searches through the NIH RePORTER, students searching for mentors may also take advantage of a new tool offered by the CTSC, the CTSC Education and Training Mentor Search Tool. Currently in beta-testing, this online resource provides a roster of faculty members who have served as mentors for CTSC students and offers a keyword search function to identify potential mentors across our consortium and other institutions.
In summary, Drs. Lakoski and Milner recommended patience and persistence in the search for mentors, but suggested mentoring can help one successfully achieve the vision of the life one wants. They encouraged the workshop’s attendees to continue to understand their strengths and weaknesses, connect with their colleagues, and learn, while also taking time to reflect, maintain balance in their lives, and seek help and guidance when needed.
To provide further support and guidance to our community members who are working with, or who serve as, mentors, the CTSC will host another workshop in the spring of 2016, Optimizing the Practice of Mentoring: How to be an Effective Mentor, led by experts Anne Marie Weber-Main, PhD, and Esad El-Fakahany, PhD. Stay tuned for more details!
To learn more about the CTSC’s educational offerings, please visit here.