Mentorship is Multifaceted
As most readers know already, one goal during training is to find exceptional mentorship. A recent article about mentor networks for junior faculty in academic medicine sheds light on some important themes (DeCastro R, Sambuco D, Ubel PA, et al. Acad Med. 2013;88:497-504). The authors conducted in-depth interviews with 100 former recipients of NIH career-development awards and their mentors. Here are a few of their conclusions that can be applied to the search for good mentorship during training:
- Mentorship is multifaceted. Mentors help with everything from formatting figures, to writing grants and papers, to advice on succeeding in academics, to helping protégés get jobs. Many mentors provide personal advice as well.
- One mentor alone is insufficient. It is very unlikely that one person can fulfill all the mentorship needs of another.
- Mentor networks are crucial. Much as one diversifies an investment portfolio, one should identify a series of mentors that help with a variety of career and personal issues. Each mentor has strong points, and trainees should actively seek out mentors who can help them with separate issues. Having a mentor network can help protect against “inadequate mentoring” from one’s primary advisor, who may, for example, be an excellent scientist but may not have connections to help a post-doc get a job. As one becomes more independent, mentors that may have been ideal previously may no longer be sufficient.
- Peers can be an important resource for support and collaboration. This statement is true from early on in graduate school through mid-career doldrums.
- Mentors of one’s own ethnicity and gender can be important. As one of the interviewees stated in the article, “women sometimes need to talk to women.” This type of mentorship can be important for anyone to help navigate specific issues like work-life balance or communication skills.
Overall, by performing and analyzing extensive interviews with previous K-awardees and their mentors, the authors of this article help outline the importance of mentor networks. The article particularly emphasizes a fact that many readers have probably noted on their own: one single mentor is insufficient.
We encourage you to look for mentors at your institution and outside of your institution. ASH and the Trainee Council provide many opportunities for seeking out mentorship. Attending Trainee Day and other trainee events at the ASH annual meeting is a great way to meet enthusiastic faculty members interested in mentoring, as are participation in the ASH Clinical Research Training Institute and the ASH Translational Research Training in Hematology program.