To give principal investigators (PIs) the tools they need to become better mentors—especially to their graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from groups underrepresented in biomedical research—Einstein’s office of diversity and inclusion, in partnership with the Graduate Division and the Belfer Institute for Advanced Biomedical Studies, is launching an eight-hour training program for all faculty who have trainees. The sessions kick off next month.
The evidenced-based, interactive training was originally developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for mentors across science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM) disciplines, who work with graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty. Themes include aligning expectations, addressing equity and inclusion, cultivating ethical behavior, enhancing work-llfe integration, fostering independence, maintaining effective communication, and promoting mentee research self-efficacy and professional development.
“Offering training that includes a clear component of mentoring across differences is important,” says Nerys Benfield, M.D., M.P.H., senior associate dean for diversity and inclusion and an associate professor of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein and a gynecologist at Montefiore. “We are excited that this is going to be something that we will be offering to all of our investigators,” she adds.
Enhancing the diversity of the biomedical workforce “leads to better science,” says Victoria Freedman, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate programs in biomedical sciences, director of the Graduate Division, and assistant professor of microbiology & immunology at Einstein. “Creativity comes from interactions between people with different backgrounds, different training, and different ideas. This diversity of viewpoints allows us to make groundbreaking discoveries.”
Einstein will introduce faculty to the program in a one-hour videoconference at 11 a.m. Nov. 18. Training will be run by professional facilitators from the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (CIMER) Project through a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
After the introductory session, faculty can choose one of two options for their formal mentor training. The first option, open to 25 faculty members, will consist of four two-hour sessions presented via videoconference on Dec. 13 through 16. The second option will be an all-day in-person training session open to 30 faculty members scheduled for Jan. 18, 2022. Dr. Benfield says priority will be given to investigators who have new graduate students or postdoctoral fellows. Feedback from the first two sessions will help shape future training options for Einstein investigators in 2022.
What the Trainees Wanted
The impetus to explore opportunities for mentor education in the biomedical sciences, especially as it related to people from different backgrounds, came from the urging of Einstein’s graduate students and postdocs themselves, Dr. Benfield says. “We had trainees who came from those different backgrounds who told us they felt that they needed to connect more effectively with their mentors,” she says.
So the faculty diversity action plan committee, a working group under the office of diversity & inclusion, researched a number of programs that could deliver effective training to faculty that focused on mentoring across differences and enhancing that kind of relationship. The group considered developing a program internally. “But in the end, we felt that bringing in an experienced team would be the most effective approach,” Dr. Benfield says. “One of the reasons that we chose the CIMER group was because it was research focused. It spoke to the lab environment in a way that generic mentoring programs didn’t. And it spoke to that PI-grad student relationship, which is distinct and unique in its apprenticeship-type model.”
Members of the faculty committee include Dr. Benfield, Dr. Freedman, Anne Bresnick, Ph.D., associate dean for postdoctoral affairs, director of the Belfer Institute, and professor of biochemistry, and Paul Marantz, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for clinical research education and professor of medicine and of epidemiology and population health.
Dr. Bresnick says the upcoming training “is part of a bigger effort to enhance the value of mentoring. We enjoy being educators. We enjoy being mentors. If we can demonstrate that this is a skill that can be developed and improved upon, then we can improve mentoring in general. This makes our academic environment better, which enhances our success.”
Boosting Mentoring for Medical Students
A similar training, called Boosting Mentors, is being offered to first-year Einstein medical students and their mentors in an effort to diversify the pool of physician-scientists. The NIH-funded randomized, controlled trial will study the impact that mentor training might have toward this goal.
Those who identify as underrepresented in medicine (all genders) or female/non-binary (all ethnicities) are invited to apply, even if they do not yet have a mentor. Students will be asked to complete four surveys and will complete short, live polling over the course of two weeks in the summer and will be paid $150 for their participation.
Einstein is one of eight medical schools participating in the study. Others are the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, The George Washington University, Penn State University, Medical College of Wisconsin, and the University of South Florida.
“There is a critical need to diversify the biomedical workforce,” says Einstein’s study site leader, Irene Blanco, M.D. M.S. “Through programs such as this one, we hope to support mentors so that they can provide culturally responsive mentoring, ensuring a supportive and inclusive climate for the mentees.” Dr. Blanco is also associate dean of diversity enhancement and professor of medicine at Einstein and a rheumatologist at Montefiore.
Mentors of all backgrounds may participate in Boosting Mentoring for Medical Students. They will be coached to help their mentees in the areas of scientific research and career potential. The virtual training takes 90 minutes and consists of nine 10-minute learning modules. Medical students can learn more or enroll here.
Posted on: Wednesday, November 10, 2021