• Open Access

Training the Next Generation of Research Mentors: The University of California, San Francisco, Clinical & Translational Science Institute Mentor Development Program


MD Feldman (mfeldman@medicine.ucsf.edu)


Mentoring is a critical component of career development and success for clinical translational science research faculty. Yet few programs train faculty in mentoring skills. We describe outcomes from the first two faculty cohorts who completed a Mentor Development Program (MDP) at UCSF. Eligibility includes having dedicated research time, expertise in a scientific area and a desire to be a lead research mentor. A post-MDP survey measured the program's impact on enhancement of five key mentoring skills, change in the Mentors-in-Training (MIT) self-rated importance of being a mentor to their career satisfaction, and overall confidence in their mentoring skills. Since 2007, 29 MITs participated in and 26 completed the MDP. Only 15% of the MITs reported any previous mentor training. Overall, 96% of MITs felt that participation in the MDP helped them to become better mentors. A majority reported a significant increase in confidence in mentoring skills and most reported an increased understanding of important mentoring issues at UCSF. MITs reported increased confidence in overall and specific mentoring skills after completion of the MDP. The MDP can serve as a model for other institutions to develop the next generation of clinical-translational research mentors.


Mentoring is a critical component of career development and success for academic health sciences faculty1 particularly for those committed to careers in clinical and translational research. The availability of outstanding mentors has been proposed as an essential means of ensuring a pipeline for training researchers2–4 and for recruiting and retaining clinician-scientists.5 Influential and sustained mentorship has been found to enhance the productivity of research fellows6 and conversely, lack of a mentor was identified by junior faculty as a major factor hindering career progress in academic health sciences.7 Dedicated, skilled mentors are needed to ensure success in research and thus, it is critical that research faculty be trained to be effective mentors.5

At academic health centers, the success of a clinical translational research enterprise depends on a robust mentoring program. In addition to training mentors, the program should also promote institution-wide networking and cross-disciplinary research and collaboration to enhance career satisfaction and career management.8 To our knowledge, few academic health science universities have developed formalized training programs for mid-career clinical translational science research mentors.

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Clinical and Translational Science Institutes (CTSI) Mentor Development Program (MDP) was established to train the next generation of clinical and translational research mentors. We describe the structure and content of the UCSF CTSI MDP and present outcomes from the first two cohorts of Mentors-in-Training (MITs).


CTSI Mentor Development Program Overview

In 2006, the UCSF CTSI (http://ctsi.ucsf.edu/) was one of the first 12 academic institutions selected to be part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical and translational science consortium. One of the unique aspects of the UCSF proposal and a key component of the UCSF CTSI is a Mentor Development Program (MDP) aimed at improving the mentoring skills of mid-career clinical translational research faculty members. The primary goal of the MDP is to train mid-career and early senior clinical and translational research faculty in the knowledge and art of mentoring so that they can more effectively mentor the next generation of clinical and translational researchers.

The MDP builds on the improved climate for career support catalyzed in part by the campus-wide UCSF Faculty Mentoring Program (FMP) that launched in early 2006. The UCSF FMP (http://acpers.ucsf.edu/mentoring/) is a campus wide program run by the Office of the Vice Provost, Academic Affairs, Faculty Development and Advancement aimed at improving the availability and quality of mentoring for UCSF faculty in all four professional schools. The primary goal of the FMP is to ensure that all junior faculty members are paired with a Career Mentor to oversee and support their professional development. Senior Faculty Mentoring Facilitators serve in each department and school to manage junior faculty mentor-mentee pairs and to assist the Director of the Faculty Mentoring Program in disseminating mentoring best practices across the campus. The Director of the Faculty Mentoring Program (MDF) also serves as the Co-Director of the CTSI Mentor Development Program.

MDP Curriculum

The CTSI Mentor Development Program was developed by the Director (JSB), the Director of the campus wide Faculty Mentoring Program and at least one Assistant Director from each of the four professional schools (BJG, RJ, JK, JPW-K, KAL, KY), a leadership team with extensive mentoring experience and broad knowledge of research activities at UCSF. The curriculum was developed via an iterative process using literature review, expert opinion, and face to face and electronic faculty forums. The curriculum consists of 10 case-based seminars (Table 1) held during monthly half-day meetings over a five-month period. Each seminar was developed and led by an MDP Director or senior research faculty member and included expert panelists from within and outside UCSF. The monthly schedule included two seminars each morning and time for Mentors-in-Training (MITs) to network with each other and with senior mentors. An MDP wiki site was developed that included mentoring resources, seminar outlines, illustrative mentoring cases, and the opportunity to add observations and comments to the mentoring cases. Seminars were recorded and available for viewing on DVDs, creating an online resource for the entire UCSF community. At the end of the final seminar, time was allotted for MITs to discuss the overall program.

Table 1.  UCSF Mentor Development Program Curriculum
The curriculum consists of 10 case-based seminars:
1. Defining Mentorship from the Beginning
Panel discussion of the mentoring team concept, specifically defining roles and expectations for the Lead Mentor, Co-Mentors and Career Mentors as well as the mentee.
2. Rewards and Challenges of Mentoring
Panel discussion to provide better understanding of potential challenges, as well as more insight into the rewards, of a mentorship relationship. Case vignettes are selected by MITs for panel discussion.
3. Communicating Effectively with Mentees
MITs are introduced to the essential building blocks of effective communication such as personal awareness, emotional intelligence and active listening; and these concepts are reinforced through interactive exercises. Specific challenges to mentor-mentee communication are demonstrated by workshop facilitators and mentoring ‘case vignettes’ allow participants to practice new approaches and techniques in a supportive environment.
4. Balancing Work & Life
In this seminar, senior mentors and MITs share personal stories of work-life challenges and discuss successful (and unsuccessful) approaches toward dealing with these issues. Campus resources for maintaining a successful work-life balance are presented.
5. Understanding Diversity among Mentees
This workshop aims to increase the MITs appreciation of the importance of diversity at UCSF and its impact on the mentoring climate. MITs participate in a reflective exercise on awareness of difference and several vignettes that illustrate challenges of mentoring in a diverse academic community are discussed.
6. Understanding Academic Advancement Policies
The academic advancement process is complex and a clear understanding of the process is critical to optimize chances for academic success. All mentors must understand the academic review process to optimally direct research mentees to allow for prioritization of activities.
7. Understanding Economic & Fiscal Realities for Successful Academic Careers
The focus is on specific issues with understanding of research funds flow. Topics covered include how: to read fiscal data; often to expect financial updates on grants; to stay ahead of spending problems; to identify problems; to build funds for future use and to apply and teach these tools to mentees. We also review how to diversify your portfolio of projects to withstand changes in funding priorities.
8. Leadership Skills & Opportunities: How to build a successful Research Team
This seminar focuses on providing participants practical skills in developing and motivating others. Participants are first introduced to a number of concepts including identification of what motivates employees to peak performance, elements of job satisfaction and the four crucial elements for motivation. Participants are introduced to the Hersey and Blanchard14 model and then apply it to a number of example employee situations to frame context and relevance. Following this, participants are divided into small groups and given a series of case studies to discuss and the results are presented to the larger group.
9. Understanding Intramural & Extramural Grants
A successful grant portfolio is essential for all mentees. With an esteemed panel of senior researchers, case-based scenarios, and group discussion, mentors-in-training are provided with resources and shared experiences to assist their mentees with grant writing and acquisition.
10. IRB: Navigating the UCSF Application Process
MITs are introduced to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) campus leadership and through case examples learn how to avoid pitfalls and to work more effectively and efficiently with the IRB.

Mentoring Team and Mentor Role Definitions

The leadership team agreed early on in the curriculum development process that for a successful research career, mentees need a mentoring team consisting of different types of mentors, each with distinct roles (Table 2). The key to the mentoring team is the lead mentor, who is responsible for developing the creative and independent research career of their mentee. In addition to having expertise in the mentee's scientific area, lead mentors must be familiar with resources and databases within and outside of their discipline at UCSF and have their own resources including research staff available to help facilitate the mentee's research. The Lead Mentors assist with developing a multidisciplinary mentoring team that includes up to one to two Co-Mentors. Ideally, at least one Co-Mentor would be trained in an area that complements rather than replicates the lead mentor's expertise. For example, if the lead mentor is trained in clinical research, at least one Co-Mentor should be trained in laboratory-based research, or vice versa. This multidisciplinary mentoring team is coordinated with the mentee's departmental Career Mentor (overseen by the departmental Faculty Mentoring Facilitator of the UCSF FMP).

Table 2.  UCSF CTSI Mentor Development Program Definition of Mentor Roles*
  1. *Adapted from the UCSF Clinical & Translational Sciences Training K12 Clinical Research Career Development Awards.

1. Lead Mentor
 • Responsible for one to three junior researcher mentees, meeting with them on a regular basis, minimally twice a month
 • Expert in their scientific area
 • Able to guide mentees in the following areas:
  inline image Professional research & academic skills (promotion and tenure)
  inline image Career advice & management: develop a five-year plan
  inline image Develop a feasible, coordinated research plan
  inline image Provide resources: databases, access to space, research staff, access to funding and potential funding sources (campus and national)
  inline image Collegial networking: national, international
  inline image Assist with communication of findings including oral presentations, writing of abstracts, manuscripts and development of grants
 • Assist with developing a mentoring team and insuring ongoing communication with Co-Mentors
2. Co-Mentors
 • Responsible for working with the lead mentor on overall mentoring responsibilities (as outlined above) for the mentee and for providing particular guidance in their areas of expertise
 • Responsible for one to three mentees depending on number of Lead Mentor responsibilities
3. Career Mentor
 • A senior faculty member responsible for providing career guidance and support for their junior faculty mentees but may not be intimately familiar with the mentees’ research interests.
 • Assigned by the Faculty Mentoring Program Mentoring Facilitator in each department or school.
 • Expected to meet with the mentee at least every six months to review overall career goals and advise them on issues related to advancement and promotion.
 • Should not be a mentee's direct supervisor but will almost always be in their home department.
4. Advisor
 • In general, advisors have informal relationships with mentees and may or may not have a concordant area of research but are familiar with the institution and program.
 • Can assist in developing and refining their program of research, networking, family advice, and help launch their career. Meetings are usually arranged on an as needed basis.

Application and Selection Process

Eligibility for the MDP includes: 1) being a mid-level or early senior faculty member; 2) dedicated research time; 3) expertise in a scientific area; 4) a desire to be a Lead Mentor for one to three junior faculty within the next fewyears; and 5) a commitment to attend monthly morning meetings for five months. The application includes an applicant goal statement, a letter of support from the applicant's department chair or head of their research unit, and an NIH biosketch or CV. The applicant statement includes a description of immediate and long-term career objectives in mentoring junior investigators; a summary of the applicant's research career; and a description of any prior experience as a mentor. A letter of support from the applicant's department chair describes the applicant's role in the department or school, the benefits the applicant would derive from participation in the MDP, and a guarantee of release time for one morning per month for five months. The MDP leadership reviews the applications and selects those most appropriate for the program. Specific criteria for selection of MITs includes: 1) Expertise in a scientific area of inquiry supported by independent research funding; 2) Adequate additional resources available to help support a broader research agenda that includes junior mentees; 3) Demonstration that they have progressed to the point in their career where they have the competence and confidence to transition to the mentor role; 4) Affiliation with a department or research unit that is conducive to mentoring; and 5) Clear endorsement from the department chair to participate in the program. Enrollment was limited to no more than 15 MITs per cohort for the first two cohorts described in this paper.

Program Assessment Tools

Prior to attending the first MDP seminar, all MITs completed an online Pre-MDP Assessment Survey. The survey included questions on their academic training and current academic rank, professional school, primary research activity, gender, ethnicity, and percent time spent on research and other activities. MITs were also asked if they had any prior formal mentor training and rated their overall agreement with the importance of being a mentor to their career satisfaction and overall confidence in their mentoring skills on a 5 point Likert scale (l = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). Similarly, they rated their confidence in their ability to assist mentees on specific mentoring skills. Individual mentor training seminars were evaluated on their content, panel members, and success in increasing understanding of specific mentoring issues.

A post-MDP survey asked about specific programmatic aspects that MITs found useful and what was learned from the program. An overall assessment of the program's impact on enhancement of five key mentoring issues (mentor skill building tips, becoming a better mentor, introduction to policies and procedures, mentoring plans/goals, and increased interaction with other mid level mentors and with senior faculty) were reported on the same 5 point Likert scale described above. Using the same questions as the pre-MDP survey and 5 point Likert scale, change in the MITs' self-rated importance of being a mentor to their career satisfaction and overall confidence in their mentoring skills after the MDP was assessed. To assess how the MDP Program influenced specific mentoring skills, questions from the pre-MDP survey were repeated on the post-MDP survey.

Statistical Analysis

Demographic characteristics are reported as number and percent of MITs. To determine the impact of the MDP, we report the percent of respondents who answered ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ to the post-MDP assessment questions. Average, standard deviation and percent with improvement of the pre and post skills confidence questions are reported. Paired t-tests were used to evaluate statistically significant changes. Open ended responses were analyzed by three investigators using open coding methods.9 Analyses were performed using SAS Version 9.1 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC). P-values less than 0.05 were considered statistically significant.


Since its inception in 2007, 29 MITs (out of 40 applicants) were selected to participate in the UCSF CTSI Mentor Development Program and 26 (90%) completed the program. Of those who completed the program, 46% were female, 77% white, most held an MD degree (64%) and were in the School of Medicine (81%) (Table 3). The majority of MITs were at the Associate Professor rank (58%), nearly three quarters reported that they spent at least 50% of their time engaged in research, and most were primarily performing clinical or health services research (85%). Few MITs reported any previous mentor training (15%).

Table 3.  Baseline Characteristics of UCSF Mentors-in-Training 2007–08 (N = 26)
QuestionValueN (%)
  1. *Degrees not mutually exclusive

GenderFemale12 (46)
Male14 (54)
RaceWhite20 (77)
Multi1 (4)
Other1 (4)
Degree*M.D.16 (64)
Ph.D.6 (24)
M.C.R./M.P.H./M.S.C.7 (28)
Pharm.D1 (4)
R.N.2 (8)
Other3 (12)
SchoolDentistry2 (8)
Medicine21 (81)
Nursing2 (8)
Pharmacy1 (4)
Faculty rankAssistant Professor4 (15)
Associate Professor15 (58)
Professor7 (27)
% TIME spent on research<253 (12)
25–494 (15)
50–747 (27)
>7412 (46)
% Time in clinic08 (31)
<2512 (46)
25–493 (12)
50–742 (8)
>741 (4)
Primary research typeClinical19 (73)
Health services3 (12)
Laboratory4 (15)
Prior mentor trainingYes4 (15)

Most MITs felt that the MDP had a significant impact on their mentoring skills (Table 4). For example, 96% agreed that the program helped them to become a better mentor, and 92% agreed that it had enhanced their understanding of mentoring issues at UCSF. One MIT said: “I have more knowledge about UCSF policies and procedures so I can better help my mentees.” Another MIT wrote: “The MDP answered not only the questions I knew to ask but also the questions I didn't know to ask! This is an essential [program] that every mentor needs to complete.”

Table 4.  Overall assessment of MDP Impact on Mentoring Skills (N = 26)
SkillsAgree or strongly agree N (%)
Offered mentor skill-building tips25 (96%)
Helped me become a better mentor25 (96%)
Focused my mentoring plans/goals25 (96%)
Increased interacting with others25 (96%)
Enhanced understanding of mentoring issues at UCSF24 (92%)
Introduced me to important policies and procedures23 (88%)
Increased interaction with senior faculty23 (88%)

In addition, we found a marked improvement from the pre-to-post MDP surveys in overall importance of being a mentor to career satisfaction (mean pre-MDP agreement score 1.4 (+−0.5) to mean post-MDP score 4.8 (+−0.4) P < 0.001) and overall confidence in mentoring skills (mean pre-MDP agreement score 2.2 (+−0.5) to post-MDP score 4.2 (+−0.5) P < 0.001. This increase in confidence is illustrated by one MIT who commented in the post-MDP survey: “I will use what I learned in this [program] to focus my mentoring, allowing me to better choose my mentees and to be a more effective mentor to them!’

Table 5 demonstrates the change in MIT confidence in their specific mentoring skills from the baseline pre-MDP survey to completion of the MDP program. After completion of the program, the MITs significantly improved in their confidence in mentoring skills in all items (p < 0.001). Specifically, MITs’ noted improved confidence in their ability to help their mentees in understanding the expectations for advancement and promotion, economic and fiscal realities for a successful academic career, research group/lab management, how to effectively approach translational research, identifying professional goals and interests, resources (space, staff, etc.) and seeking opportunities to network and build professional collaborations. One MIT in the post-program survey commented: “The MDP seminars helped me understand the issues among junior faculty and provided more systematic ways to deal with them. These are valuable experiences that I will most definitively incorporate into my own skills.”

Table 5.  Change in MIT confidence in specific mentoring skills rom baseline (pre-Mentor Development Program) compared to the post-program assessment (N = 26)
Mentoring skillPre-test confidence average*Post-test confidence average% Improved
 Mean (±SD)Mean (±SD) 
  1. All values on the scale: Strongly Disagree (1), Disagree (2), Neutral (3), Agree (4), Strongly Agree (5)

  2. *Pre- MDP Question: I am confident in my ability to help my mentee: Mentoring skill item

  3. Post-MDP Question: How has the MDP infl uenced your mentoring skills? I am confi dent in my ability to help my mentee: Mentoring skill item

  4. % Improved: Movement of one category from pre-MDP assessment of specific skill to post-MDP assessment

  5. ∼All are P < 0.001

Acquire pertinent skills1.8 (±0.6)4.4 (±0.6)26 (100)
Design a research project1.5 (±0.5)4.5 (±0.9)26 (100)
Communicate research findings via conferences1.5 (±0.5)4.5 (±0.9)26 (100)
Prepare and publish research manuscripts1.4 (±0.5)4.4 (±0.8)26 (100)
Understand the expectation for advancement and promotion2.1 (±0.8)4.5 (±0.6)25 (100)
Communicate effectively with colleagues2.2 (±0.5)4.3 (±0.6)26 (100)
Improve clinical care1.8 (±0.8)4.2 (±1.3)17 (100)
By serving as a role model2 (±0.5)4.3 (±0.7)23 (100)
Identify professional goals and interests1.6 (±0.7)4.5 (±0.6)25 (96)
Seek opportunities to network and build professional collaborations nationally and internationally2.3 (±0.7)4.2 (±0.6)24 (96)
Understand economic and fiscal realities for an academic career2.3 (±0.9)4.3 (±0.7)24 (96)
Develop a research focus1.8 (±0.6)4.4 (±0.8)24 (92)
Determine long-term career plans2.1 (±0.8)4.4 (±0.6)24 (92)
By providing emotional support2 (±1)4.3 (±0.8)24 (92)
Seek opportunities to network and build professional collaborations on campus2.2 (±0.7)4.3 (±0.6)24 (92)
Balance professional and personal demands2.4 (±0.9)4 (±0.8)22 (85)
Develop a promotion package2.6 (±0.6)4.1 (±0.8)21 (84)
Obtain research/grant funding2.2 (±0.8)4.1 (±0.7)20 (80)
Understand Research Group/Lab Management2.3 (±0.7)4.1 (±0.9)20 (80)
Understand how to effectively approach translational research2.5 (±0.9)4 (±0.8)20 (77)
Find resources (eg, space, staff, databases2.4 (±0.8)3.8 (±0.7)19 (76)
Improve time management skills2.5 (±0.9)4 (±0.8)19 (73)
Get a job2.4 (±1)3.7 (±0.8)18 (72)
Assess departmental/organized research unit goals to match mentee goals2.9 (±0.8)4.1 (±0.9)16 (70)
Improve teaching skills2.8 (±0.9)3.9 (±1)17 (68)


We describe a novel Mentor Development Program (MDP) created by the UCSF CTSI, in concert with the campus wide Faculty Mentoring Program, to train mid-career and early senior clinical and translational research faculty in critical mentoring knowledge and skills. We found that the MDP had a significant impact on the participants’ assessment of their mentoring skills after completion of the program. Notably, the MITs reported a significantly increased level of confidence in their overall and specific mentoring skills and most reported that they are likely to alter their approach to mentoring as a result of the MDP training. In prior studies, confidence has been shown to be a strong predictor of behavior change10 and increased confidence in academic career functions have been shown to result from participation in a faculty development training program.11

Mentoring functions consist of career functions and psychosocial functions.12 In brief, career functions are those aspects of a mentoring relationship that support advancement in the organization; psychosocial functions are those aspects of a mentoring relationship that enhance a sense of competence and effectiveness.13 The CTSI MDP is a comprehensive program that aims to train outstanding mentors who will epitomize excellence in both of these domains. The program created an integrated environment for senior mentors and MITs, encouraged creative and innovative networking around a range of mentoring challenges and developed a toolbox of strategies and collective experiences to build a community of mentoring excellence.

Our findings are limited by lack of a comparison group and the fact that our MITs were volunteers. Our results may not be generalizable to other institutions. We believe that our MITs’ increased confidence in their mentoring skills will translate into improved mentoring effectiveness; however, it is premature to collect data on outcomes of mentoring such as improved satisfaction of their mentees with mentoring or enhanced mentee career success.

Translating our findings into effective and sustainable mentorship programs is challenging. To support ongoing professional mentoring development for our MDP graduates, we are developing a peer mentoring program and ongoing networking opportunities for our graduates through annual retreats. At each yearly retreat, the graduates will be re-assessed for changes in their mentoring experience. We are also developing assessment tools for the MDP graduate's mentees to assess mentee satisfaction with their mentoring and mentee career success.


In summary, we believe that well-trained and confident faculty mentors are essential to ensure a pipeline of productive clinical and translational research scientists. Currently, mentor-mentee relationships in the academic health sciences are threatened by increased clinical and administrative demands and the growing competition for funding. We encourage other academic health centers to support specialized training programs such as the Clinical and Translational Science Institute Mentor Development Program to develop mid-level faculty mentors. The UCSF CTSI MDP can serve as a model for other institutions to develop skilled research mentors who will guide the next generation of clinical and translational scientists.


“This project was supported by NIH/National Center for Research Resources UCSF-CTSI Grant Number UL1 RR024131 and by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases K24 DK059294 (Dr. Brown), National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute K24 HL087713 (Dr. Huang) and National Institute on Aging K24 AG031155 (Dr. Yaffe). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.”