Mentorship is considered an important part of academic development. However, the proposed benefits have not been quantified. Junior faculty often seek mentorship to help them better navigate the challenges of the academic landscape. Efstathiou et al (PLoS One. 2018;13:e0207634) developed a standardized mentorship program and offered it to junior faculty in the departments of Radiation Oncology and Anesthesia, Critical Care, and Pain Management. They established mentor pairs between junior and senior faculty based on mentee self-ranked goals and senior faculty self-ranked ability. They were compared against junior faculty outside of these departments. The program consisted of regular informal meetings as well as three formal training sessions over nine months. Participants were given three surveys over the course of the study: one before the study, one on completion of the formal program, and one several years later. The first and second surveys were structured similarly, consisting of aspects of mentoring, each graded on importance with each increasing number denoting increasing importance. The third survey evaluated the long-term aspect of the mentoring program along seven domains of mentoring, and included open-ended questions. The results also included promotion and grant funding among faculty still at the original facility.
In total, 23 mentees went through the pilot program and were compared to 91 junior faculty who did not participate in the formal program. At baseline, the groups were similar across all domains. From the first to the second survey there was a 30% improvement in the mentee view of the workplace, and career satisfaction increased 21%. No significant changes were found regarding which aspects of a mentor are valued by mentees or their views of the department’s openness and fairness. Of all seven domains, the only one found to increase in the mentees who did not participate in the formal program was improved satisfaction with the work environment. The long-term retention rate was similar across the two groups; however, the mentees who were in the formal program were more likely to be senior faculty. Initial academic rank was similar at baseline between the two groups. While neither promotion nor funding alone reached statistical significance between groups, the composite “funded plus promoted” significantly favored formally mentored faculty. Additionally there was a trend toward improved funding in the formal mentoring group. Eleven of the initial mentees remained at the institution and completed the long-term follow-up survey regarding their mentoring experience. Ten of the original group went on to become mentors.
This study suggests that there are likely quantifiable benefits of a formal mentorship program, in both personal and professional domains, and this structure may also provide mentees the tools to become more effective mentors themselves. These findings also suggest that a formal mentorship relationship may improve wellness. This study is limited in terms of size, limited follow-up, possible bias in terms of who opted in to the program, and an imperfect control group. While a larger study with a closer control is needed, this study indicates measurable benefits for a formal mentorship program. Additional study is needed to determine the costs and benefits of this and similar programs.
David Gordon, MD, is a clinical assistant professor and advanced resuscitation fellow at Stony Brook University Department of Emergency Medicine.
Brian J. Wright, MD, MPH, is a clinical assistant professor and the program director for the Advanced Resuscitation Training Program in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stony Brook Medicine. Dr. Wright is an editor of Concise Critical Appraisal