Perceptions of a faculty mentorship programme
Lil J Miedzinski, 2E4.17 Walter Mackenzie Health Sciences Center, 114 Street and 84 Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2B7, Canada. Tel: 00 1 780 407 7313; Fax: 00 1 780 407 7137; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Context and setting
In 1998, the University of Alberta’s Department of Medicine developed a mandatory mentorship programme for all junior faculty staff in their first academic appointment. Depending on the mentee’s job description, an ‘academic’ and, for some, a ‘scientific’ mentor were assigned. To facilitate the relationship, a web-based Mentorship Information Kit and a mentorship workshop were offered.
Why the idea was necessary
Although mentorship in academia is viewed as critical, there is little evidence in the literature to support this perception. As it became more difficult to recruit mentors, as well as to quantify programme success, we elected to examine participant perceptions. A total of 73 academic and 24 scientific mentor–mentee pairs were matched to this evaluation.
What was done
Ethics Board-approved anonymous programme evaluation questionnaires were developed. One was mailed to current and past mentees and the other to current and previous academic or scientific mentors. Both groups were asked to evaluate the perceived impact of the relationship on assumed measures of effectiveness, including research funding and publication success, local and national networking, integration into the department, and enhanced life balance.
Evaluation of results and impact
Overall, 75 of 138 questionnaires (54%) were returned. These included responses from 41 (65%) academic mentees, 16 (67%) scientific mentees, 31 (62%) academic mentors and 11 (48%) scientific mentors. Whereas most pairs met once or twice per year, 25% of the scientific pairs and 5% of the academic pairs had more than four meetings per year (P = 0.06). Significant correlations were noted between the mentee’s assessment of adequacy of meeting frequency and perceived mentor helpfulness (academic pairs, P = 0.01; scientific pairs, P = 0.01). The majority of mentees would recommend their mentors and 82% reported overall satisfaction with the programme. A total of 56% of mentees indicated a willingness to serve as mentors in future.
From the mentors’ point of view, a statistically significant correlation between adequacy of meeting frequency and mentor efficacy was noted for academic mentors (P = 0.001), but not for scientific mentors (P = 0.08). Most mentors enjoyed their role. A total of 63% of academic and 56% of scientific mentors had consulted the Mentorship Kit. Approximately a third of responding mentors had attended a mentorship workshop and most had found it helpful. Of the academic mentors, 16% had been mentees in the programme.
Most respondents indicated that publication and research productivity were discussed. Although 33% of academic mentors agreed mentorship pairing ‘enhanced capacity to obtain research funding’, substantially greater numbers of both scientific mentees (62%) and scientific mentors (78%) agreed (P = 0.02, P = 0.05, respectively). More scientific mentors than mentees agreed the relationship enhanced ‘integration into the department’, with a statistically significant difference between their responses (P = 0.01).
In general, scientific mentoring pairs perceived a greater impact on academic success than academic pairs. Although the overall assessment of the programme was positive, it was difficult to tease out the specific aspects of academia enhanced by the programme, which made it difficult to characterise success.