HSC Faculty Mentoring in Scholarship is Useful

But First Train the Trainer

Effective mentoring is critical to the success of junior faculty. There is a nationwide shortage of mentors for scholarship for faculty mentees. While mentee training programs are common, few programs focus on developing mentors.

A 2014 study confirmed that faculty mentors could be trained to improve their mentoring skills. It is not, however, known if training mentors (without pre-selection for research skills and without K-award mentees) in scholarship is effective at a diverse, small-sized academic institution. The University of New Mexico Health Science Center (HSC) Office of Faculty Affairs and Career Development has a novel two-step program to help faculty develop into effective mentors in scholarship. It has an online component that was launched in 2014 and supplemented with an optional face-to-face component launched in 2016.

The program resulted from more than two years of discussion and input from a specially constituted working group comprised of mid- to late-career research faculty members at HSC institutions (i.e., School of Medicine, College of Nursing and College of Pharmacy) from 2011 to 2013. The online program is comprised of eight competency-based modules. The program is available at https://ctsc.health.unm.edu/apps/brep/. Faculty within and outside the HSC can login without charge to this distance-based asynchronous online learning program. Each module of the online program consists of a Prezi-Based interactive multi-media format accompanied by a comprehensive list of study resources. The face-to-face program builds upon the foundation provided by the online program by including interactive case-based small-group discussions facilitated by senior mentors, each discussion lasting 1.5 hours, for a total of 10.5 hours. The F2F program used seven of the eight modules of the online program.

Between 2014 and July 2018, 105 mentors used the online program. Users were predominantly women (69 percent), associate professors or higher (72 percent), and at a School of Medicine (74 percent); with 43 percent on tenure-track and 38 percent on clinician-educator track. Without solicitation, faculty members outside the HSC constituted one-third of program users. Users accessing the online program reported a baseline moderate level of experience with mentoring. Even in this relatively experienced mentor cohort, the use of the online program was associated with significant improvement in knowledge scores.

Between 2016 and July 2018, 38 HSC faculty additionally completed the face-to-face program. Participants were predominantly women (66 percent), associate professor or higher (79 percent) and at the School of Medicine (90 percent) - 63 percent on clinician educator track and none with a current K-award mentee. The Mentoring Competency Assessment composite score rose from 4.3 ± 1.0 to 5.5 ± 0.8, p<0.001. Significant improvement was noted for mentors in all subscales, with the greatest improvement in mean score observed in the establishing and aligning expectations subscale.

The use of the HSC online mentor development program improves users’ knowledge scores related to mentoring competencies. The face-to-face program improves users’ Mentoring Competency Assessment composite and subscale scores. Programs for training mentors (without preselection for research skills) for mentoring in scholarship, may be considered at small-sized diverse academic institutions.

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