Strength in Cohort

Faculty mentorship in the Center for Injury Control

Sheryl L. Heron

Professor of Emergency Medicine, Associate Director of Education and Training for the Center for Injury Control

Natasha A. Southworth

Senior Research Project Coordinator, Center for Injury Control

Sheryl HeronThe central mission of the Emory Center for Injury Control’s (ECIC) Faculty Mentorship Program is to foster interest in injury prevention and support the pursuits of injury prevention researchers, including physicians, public health and sociology professionals, and injury prevention specialists in metropolitan Atlanta. Its three primary goals are to 1) build the field of injury prevention by supporting the professional development of faculty members at local universities; 2) enhance the knowledge and skills of faculty currently working in the injury prevention field by sharing their expertise with one another; and 3) strengthen the interdisciplinary and collaborative relationships among faculty across universities in the metro Atlanta area.

The Faculty Mentorship Program falls under the ECIC programmatic and educational umbrella. It works by pairing senior faculty mentors with junior faculty mentees. This year-long program was launched in 2010 with an inaugural cohort of eighteen faculty from five Atlanta area universities. The senior faculty were matched with their junior faculty colleagues based on mutual areas of interest and the mentors’ academic expertise. The nine pairs were encouraged to meet regularly and focus on professional development opportunities for the junior faculty participants. 

Natasha SouthworthIn 2012 we assembled the second cohort and modified the program using a more structured approach, modeling it after Emory Learning Services’ successful Mentor Emory program. There were two mandatory formal trainings during the year as well as an introductory meeting and a year-end celebration. In addition, the mentor/mentee pairs were strongly encouraged to meet for at least two hours every month. This second cohort consisted of six mentor/mentee pairs from four universities and across various disciplines (Table 1). They focused on professional development opportunities for the mentees, such as coauthorship of scholarly papers, grant and proposal development support, and collaboration. In addition, there were informal meetings and networking opportunities within the field of injury prevention. Building upon each other’s strengths and experiences, each member of a pair worked to foster a new relationship driven by the mentee’s professional goals. This structured approach was well received and enabled mentors and mentees to gain useful information about mutual areas of interest and to socialize regularly. 

When soliciting mentors, we highlighted the benefits they could expect from participating, such as increased motivation to see junior faculty succeed; exposure to a new perspective from junior faculty; a chance to hone their coaching, leadership, and management skills; and most importantly, to foster growth within the injury prevention field. For mentees, the clear benefits included career guidance; exposure to diverse perspectives and experiences; focused attention on academic advancement; and an opportunity to identify gaps in skill sets needed for professional advancement.

Both cohorts in the Faculty Mentorship Program achieved great success. For example, one of the junior faculty earned a promotion from assistant to associate professor; papers were published by the mentor/mentee pairs including a manuscript written by Danner and Heron in 2012 titled “Health Outcome Disparities in Trauma Care” in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine; and one of the pairs wrote a successful grant application to fund and expand work on the immunologic link between intimate partner violence and HIV in Africa. Post-program evaluations from participants revealed that half of the pairs accomplished all of the goals they had listed in their mentorship agreements, and the other half achieved some but not all of their goals. 

At the outset of each mentoring relationship, the two faculty members created a mentoring agreement (also adapted from Mentor Emory). The agreement was a signed document between the mentor and mentee that included, among other things, statements about individual style and work ethic; preferred meeting dates and times; promotion trajectory with a focus on education, scholarship, and service; and target dates for action items. The agreement also stipulated that the participants would gather information about what would be of most benefit to their relationship. For example, mentees would have a goal of publishing a manuscript by a certain date or aim to meet the deadline for promotion for the upcoming year. This structured approach effectively spelled out the individual and shared responsibilities of the team. 

When soliciting mentors, we highlighted the benefits of participating, such as increased motivation to see junior faculty succeed; exposure to a new perspective from junior faculty; a chance to hone their coaching, leadership, and management skills; and most importantly, to foster growth within the injury prevention field. 

At the end of the program, we asked participants to evaluate and provide feedback that we could use to improve the program. Notable suggestions for improvement included extending the mentorship program beyond the allotted one year, increasing the number of sessions on statistics, and offering faculty development tailored to the mentees’ needs and geographic variability in the location of the group meetings (for instance, outside Atlanta). 

As the director for education and training for ECIC, I oversee the Faculty Mentorship Program and served as a faculty mentor in the second year of the program’s inception. I am delighted to say it has been a great opportunity for faculty from different schools to come together and work toward individual and mutual career goals. My life at Emory began in 1996 as a fellow in the ECIC, and I was fortunate to have Nadine Kaslow as my mentor. Through her I learned what a mentor is and how a mentee can benefit from senior leadership and expertise. Our mentoring relationship is strong and our friendship even stronger. Nadine and I have taught lectures together on mentoring, including a lecture to the other mentors and mentees in the ECIC Mentorship Program. Our highlight was receiving an award from the President’s Commission on the Status of Women that highlighted our successful mentoring relationship.

In the end, my most rewarding experience was forming a professional and personal relationship with Omar Danner, a trauma surgeon at Morehouse School of Medicine. I was his faculty mentor in the second year of the program. We co-authored a paper, worked together on the Reach One/Each One community program for underprivileged youth in Atlanta, and wrote letters of support for each other’s promotion. Omar has been promoted to associate professor and I have been promoted to full professor. The joys and satisfaction of our shared success speaks volumes to the impact that mentoring can have for both junior and senior faculty, and the ECIC mentoring program is one shining example of why and how mentoring works.

Dedicated to Dr. Debra Houry, Director Emerita and shining light of the ECIC. Thanks, Deb.

Table 1