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Mentorship in the Context of Interdisciplinary Geriatric Research: Lessons Learned from the RAND/Hartford Program for Building Interdisciplinary Geriatric Research Centers

Authors

  • Donna J. Keyser PhD, MBA,

    1. Center for High-Value Health Care, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    2. Grants and Contracts Program, Insurance Services Division, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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  • Zainab Abedin MPH,

    1. Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York
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  • Dana J. Schultz MPP,

    1. RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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  • Harold Alan Pincus MD

    Corresponding author
    1. Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York
    2. RAND Corporation, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    • Center for High-Value Health Care, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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Address correspondence to Harold Alan Pincus, NYS Psychiatric Institute, Room 5813, Box 9, 1051 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10032. E-mail: hap2104@columbia.edu

Abstract

In light of the growing trend toward formalized research mentorship for effectively transmitting the values, standards, and practices of science from one generation of researchers to the next, this article provides the results of an exploratory study. It reports on research mentorship in the context of interdisciplinary geriatric research based on experiences with the RAND/Hartford Program for Building Interdisciplinary Geriatric Research Centers. At the end of the 2-year funding period, staff from the RAND Coordinating Center conducted 60- to 90-minute open-ended telephone interviews with the co-directors of the seven centers. Questions focused on interdisciplinary mentorship activities, barriers to implementing these activities, and strategies for overcoming them, as well as a self-assessment tool with regard to programs, policies, and structures across five domains, developed to encourage research mentorship. In addition, the mentees at the centers were surveyed to assess their experiences with interdisciplinary mentoring and the center. According to the interviewees, some barriers to successful interdisciplinary mentoring included the mentor's lack of time, structural support, and the lack of a clear definition of interdisciplinary research. Most centers had formal policies in place for mentor identification and limited policies on mentor incentives. Mentees uniformly reported their relationships with their mentors as positive. More than 50% of mentees reported having a primary mentor from within their discipline and had more contact with their primary mentor than their secondary mentors. Further research is needed to understand the complexity of institutional levers that emerging programs might employ to encourage and support research mentorship.

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