Program to train faculty mentors strengthens university’s institutional climate

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Pre-pandemic, faculty mentorship training sessions are offered to scientists, educators, and physicians at UC San Diego Health Sciences. Credit: UC San Diego Health Sciences

Many universities are in search of strategies to improve their faculty diversity and institutional climate. Mentorship is a key factor in faculty satisfaction. However, many faculty, especially women and those from underrepresented ethnic and racial backgrounds, don’t have clear access to quality mentoring. The University of California San Diego Health Sciences Office of Faculty Affairs created a formal Faculty Mentor Training Program, which other universities can replicate.

In a paper published online on December 23, 2021 in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science, FMTP leadership detailed the program’s design and success in improving mentorship quality and faculty satisfaction, especially among underrepresented faculty.

” Our goal was to provide mentorship opportunities for all faculty,” stated JoAnn Trejo (first author of the study) and assistant vice chancellor of UC San Diego Health Sciences Faculty Affairs. This has never been done in a national health system fashion before, but we have developed and tested it so that it can be used in any medical school across the country.

Trejo set out with her colleagues to create an evidence-based mentorship system that all faculty (including researchers, educators and physicians) would be able to access. This would be a way to address the disparities in mentoring women, LGBTQ, and other underrepresented faculty.

Trejo believes that hiring diverse faculty is just the first step. But, making sure they feel welcome and part of the community is the key to their success.

” Good mentoring requires being able to communicate with someone authentically and trusting that they will do what is best for you,” stated Trejo. These types of relationships can be difficult to build when there are cultural differences between mentor and mentee. Mentorship can be left to chance as it is often done. Underrepresented students have fewer opportunities to mentor senior faculty and their mentorship quality is lower.

FMTP has now trained 23 percent of all Health Sciences faculty between 2017 and 2020, and shows no signs of slowing down. Senior faculty mentors receive training in effective communication, promoting work-life balance and addressing equity and inclusion, and later develop their own mentoring philosophy statements. Mentors of junior faculty learn how to make the most of their mentoring relationships, and are encouraged to create a career plan. The match between junior and senior faculty is based on research and clinical interests.

Following this three-year pilot of the program, data now reveal how the trainings have influenced the culture at UC San Diego Health Sciences. FMTP participants were significantly more satisfied with the quality of mentoring received compared to non-participants, with the greatest increase in satisfaction reported by underrepresented faculty (from 38 percent satisfied in 2017 to 61 percent in 2019). Also, underrepresented faculty reported a higher morale and a more supportive environment.

The surveys also revealed areas that need to be improved. Senior faculty felt more confident about their ability to mentor women, LGBTQ, and underrepresented faculty. However, they weren’t sure if their expectations were being met. Future FMTP sessions will now be focused on culturally sensitive mentorship.

Since many of the mentoring skills taught by FMTP are universally applicable, Trejo believes it will continue to have impact not only on the faculty, but also on all of their mentees, including medical students, residents, fellows, graduate students and postdocs.

” We’re excited about all we’ve accomplished and what we’ve learned,” stated Trejo. “I am amazed at the unique ways that each department has implemented formal mentorship. We look forward to supporting the program’s growth and expansion at UC San Diego Health Sciences, and beyond. “

Co-authors include Deborah Wingard, Virginia Hazen, Alexandra Bortnick, Karen Van Hoesen and Vivian Reznik, all at UC San Diego, as well as Angela Byars-Winston and Christine Pfund at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

More information:
JoAnn Trejo et al, A System-Wide Health Sciences Faculty Mentor Training Program Is Associated with Improved Effective Mentoring and Institutional Climate, Journal of Clinical and Translational Science (2021). DOI: 10.1017/cts.2021. 883

Faculty mentor training program strengthens university’s institutional climate (2022, January 11)
retrieved 12 January 2022

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