Category Archives: Mentoring

Oct 20 2014

Thoughts on Mentoring

For 23 years, Project L/EARN has created stronger candidates for admission to graduate programs. The intensive, 10-week summer internship provides training, experience, and mentoring to undergraduate college students from socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural groups that traditionally have been underrepresented in graduate education. Project L/EARN is a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, and Rutgers University. In this post, interns and mentors share their insights on the value of mentoring in general, and on Project L/EARN in particular. For more, check out an accompanying Infographic: Project L/EARN: Milestones.

“Project L/EARN mentoring has been incredibly instrumental in my career path and has contributed greatly to my professional success. The program was my first major introduction to research, and helped me to apply and reinforce research methods and statistical analysis skills throughout my undergraduate and graduate years.” — Anuli Uzoaru Njoku, 1999 Intern

“Mentoring means allowing me to experience how someone else sees me—someone who believes in me and sees my potential, someone who can set my sights higher and in the right direction.” — Tamarie Macon, 2006 Intern

“Project L/EARN mentoring, then and now, has been the difference between the summer program being a one-time experience, and the beginning of an educational and professional career that will undoubtedly contribute to the story of my life. The mentoring was the avenue by which my truest potential, of which I had no real awareness, was discovered and cultivated. That cultivation has resulted, and is still resulting, in opportunities and accomplishments that are beyond my imagination.” — David Fakunle, 2008 Intern

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May 15 2014

An RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholar on Why She Wants to Be a Nurse Leader

National Nurses Week just ended, but several nurses are continuing the conversation, blogging about the reasons they aspire to leadership. Jing Wang, PhD, MPH, RN, is an assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Nursing and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar (2013-2016).


When I was a nursing student, I cared for home-bound elderly patients on a volunteer basis. Many of the patients I cared for weren’t able, or didn’t know how, to care for themselves properly. They didn’t always take their medications as they were prescribed, and they didn’t always take their chronic conditions very seriously. Often, they would wind up in the emergency room for conditions they could have managed at home.

I decided to become a professional nurse to help elderly patients take better care of themselves at home—and stay out of the hospital. I am so glad I did; I am overjoyed when my patients learn to become compliant with their medication regimens, eat right, and get the exercise they need to stay healthy.

I know I made a difference with my patients, and that knowledge motivated me to find more, and better, ways to help more patients. I wanted to effect large-scale change, to develop interventions that have the potential to help the millions of people all over the world who suffer from chronic conditions like diabetes.

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May 14 2014

Mentors Can Help Young Nurses Grow into Leaders

National Nurses Week just ended, but several nurses are continuing the conversation, blogging about the reasons they aspire to leadership. Chelsea Savage, RN, MSHA, CPHRM, is a professional liability investigator at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, Va., and was recognized in 2011 as a young nursing leader by the Virginia Action Coalition.


Like many nursing advocates, I internalized my interest in social justice through my personal history. I was raised by a single mother on welfare, and my childhood had the added stress of an educational disadvantage. My mother, motivated by strong religiosity and the isolation from society characteristic of this construct, took me out of school in sixth grade and forced me into a passive homeschool process. I was given curricula, but not a teacher, so I taught myself and passed the General Educational Development test, better known as the GED, at 15.

I was introduced to nursing while volunteering at a hospital for two–and-half years and pursued an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) for a year at age 16. Later, though, I dropped out of the ADN program. At 26, then a step-mom of three and a biological mom of one, I went back and earned my nursing degree.

Having said goodbye to my cultish upbringing, I was now driven by an insatiable curiosity and felt limitless educational potential. I went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, a graduate degree in health administration, and a fellowship in health law. I am now earning my doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) and am seen by some as a nursing leader.

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May 8 2014

Nurses: Climb the Leadership Ladder, Call the ‘Circle’

Linda Burnes Bolton, DrPH, RN, FAAN, is vice president for nursing, chief nursing officer, and director of nursing research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif., and a member of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Board of Trustees.


When troubles arose in ancient times, tribal leaders, known as “circle callers,” called on villagers to discuss problems and explore solutions as they sat together around a communal fire.

We need more of this kind of inclusive decision-making in our modern hierarchical society, and in our health care system in particular—and nurses are in a prime position to make that happen.

Nurses, I believe, are natural circle callers. They assess health from all sides and all angles. They look at individuals’ symptoms and diagnoses, but also their diet and exercise habits, their living and working conditions, their neighborhood environments and personal resources. They spend more time with patients than other health care providers and develop strong, trusting relationships with them and their loved ones. They focus on patients, but they also work with family members, caregivers, providers, administrators, payers, and community-based supporters.

National Nurses Week HC Blog Logo

In our health care system, nurses are masters of inclusive decision-making. We need nurses in positions of power so they can share their unique insights and help answer pressing and persistent questions like how to narrow deeply troubling disparities in health and health care; how to provide more coordinated and more patient-centered care; and how to improve the quality and safety of care while, at the same time, reducing costs.

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Apr 10 2014

RWJF Scholars in the News: Electronic health records, nurse mentoring, ‘longevity gaps,’ and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

The California Action Coalition has developed a mentorship program that is helping prepare the next generation of nurses to serve as leaders on health care reform. The state’s mentorship program dovetails with the 2014 leadership focus of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a national effort backed by RWJF and AARP that is working to transform health care through nursing. “Mentoring is key to strengthening any leader,” Mary Dickow, MPA, tells Nurse Zone. “Having strong mentors in my life helped me think differently and advance. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.” Dickow is statewide director of the California Action Coalition.

A recent interview in the Atlantic with David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, has generated numerous comments from readers weighing in on the merits of electronic health records (EHRs). Blumenthal is former national coordinator for health information technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research. He points out in the interview that EHRs offer “substantial” benefits for patients, but notes that in the short-term, providers incur significant costs and that it will take time to make the transition to EHRs. The Atlantic has now published several articles highlighting reader comments, which can be found here, here, and here. FierceEMR published a story about the give-and-take, which notes that many of the commenters who are skeptical about the value of EHRs are physicians.

RWJF Health & Society Scholars program University of Wisconsin-Madison Site Director David Kindig, MD, PhD, appeared on the Kojo Nnamdi Show on Washington, D.C.’s WAMU radio to discuss the “longevity gap,”—the growing gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. Kindig and other guests explore how health care reform and policies to address income inequality might affect the gap.

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Jun 24 2013

The Keys to Successful Medical Mentoring

Lynne Holden, MD, is president and chief executive officer of Mentoring in Medicine, Inc and a 2009 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leader. Based in the Bronx, N.Y., she has established an all-volunteer organization that encourages and nurtures disadvantaged students to enter the health professions. Mentoring in Medicine introduces students as young as first grade to a wide range of health professions and provides mentoring, academic enrichment, and leadership development to set them on the path toward health careers. In addition to personal contact with health professionals, students have opportunities to deliver health education in their communities. The movement Holden created motivates and supports nearly 6,000 students and engages nearly 500 health care professional volunteers.


As an Emergency Department physician, I owe all of my success to a number of mentors who were there to encourage, challenge, and remind me of what’s possible with a high degree of dedication and sacrifice.

Oddly, my first mentor was a television character: Marcus Welby, MD. I would rush home from school to see what types of patients Dr. Welby had to deal during the latest TV episode. I wanted to be just like him—smart, caring, and helpful.

Constant discussions about becoming a doctor led my father to give me a copy of “Gray's Anatomy”—a standard medical school textbook on human anatomy—for Christmas when I was 10.  Constant talk at family gatherings led my aunt, who was a nurse, to allow me to meet a black female physician for the very first time. I met Dr. Muriel Petioni at the age of 12 and that began a lifelong mentoring relationship until her death in 2012 at the age of 96.

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Jun 17 2013

Life-Changing Fellowship Spurred Me to Pursue Advanced Nursing Degree

Imani Baker is an alumna of Project L/EARN, a graduate education preparation program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). She recently earned her bachelor’s degree in public health from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and plans to become a nurse practitioner.


The two words that I can use to describe my journey through Project L/EARN are: life changing. 

I learned about the RWJF-funded program from an advisor who referred me to its faculty program director, Jane Miller, PhD. Dr. Miller warned me that the program would be “intense” and “much more work than you are used to.”

However, there are no words that could have ever prepared me for what I was about to experience that summer. Before I was admitted to Project L/EARN, I was not confident in my abilities to compete outside of my comfort zone, which included subjects specifically related to the health sciences.

This program forced me to face many of my weaknesses and confront my worst fears head on. Each day, I was overwhelmed with self-doubt. I was not the best public speaker; I struggled in statistics; and there were times when I questioned why I was picked for the program.

I said to myself, “I want to be a nurse. I don’t want to sit behind a computer and look at numbers all day. What did I get myself into?” However, my mentor, Dr. Judith Lucas, EdD, RN, GCNS-BC, taught me why it was so important for nurses to be involved in research and to have advanced graduate degrees.

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Jun 14 2013

Online Mentoring Site Aims to Close ‘Mentoring Gap’

Underrepresented students considering careers in medicine can talk to mentors and join discussions on the free, web-based mentoring site, Launched in August 2012, the site now has 400 active users, American Medical News reports.

High school, college and medical school students can interact with mentors on the site in real time through instant messaging or video chat functions, and learn about admissions testing, residency applications, and more in discussion forums. The site also features podcasts, video lectures and other resources on topics important to aspiring physicians, and a feature that allows students to participate in a mock medical school interview.

“One of the main reasons why there are so few minorities in the field of medicine is because of the mentoring gap. If nobody’s there to tell you how to get into medical school, you’re not going to get in,” Dale O. Okorodudu, MD, the project’s founder, told American Medical News.

Read the American Medical News article.

Jun 12 2013

Diversity Needs to be Front and Center

Efrain Talamantes, MD, MBA, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.


Diversity in health care is critical in providing quality health care to all Americans. As physicians, we care for patients from all walks of life and we strive to heal with our expertise, compassion and open-mindedness. Our health system and patients benefit greatly from health professionals who can speak and understand different languages, and who always strive to understand different backgrounds, cultures, practices, and beliefs. Research shows that diversity in the health care workforce enhances training for health professionals and improves access to quality health care.


There is an unprecedented demographic transformation happening in our country today; the majority of births are from Hispanics, Blacks, Asians and other racial and ethnic minorities. Since 1985, the number of underrepresented ethnic and racial minority medical school applicants, matriculates, and graduates has leveled off at about 15 percent, while their representation in the U.S. population has been nearly twice as high—and they are on pace to become the majority.

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May 24 2013

“It’s a Lil’ Colored Girl to See You.”

Angela Amar, PhD, RN, FAAN, is an associate professor at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University and a Robert Wood Johnson (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar. Her research focuses on traumatic experiences, especially violence, mental health responses to trauma, and aspects of forensic nursing. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.


As a new nurse, I had just entered a patient’s room when he called out from the bathroom to ask his wife who was there. She replied, “it’s a lil’ colored girl to see you.” Luckily, I have a pretty good poker face and was able to not show outwardly how flustered I was inwardly. I was able to introduce myself and conduct my assessment in a professional manner. Over the next three days, I took care of this patient and as we built a relationship, he marveled and told his visitors what a great and smart nurse I was.


While I’d like to think that I am great and smart, I happen to know that I worked on a floor full of great and smart nurses, all of whom were Caucasian. The patient commented on attributes in me that he felt were remarkable and exceptional. He didn’t conceive that ‘a lil’ colored girl’ could be great or smart until we interacted.

"We often see the benefits of diversity as being for minorities. We seldom see that the majority benefits as well."

Fast forwarding to my role as a faculty member, I’ve worked in majority serving institutions where I’m often one of two or three African American faculty members and the numbers of African American students is also small. Frequent comments on my student evaluations are: “She’s so smart. She’s really intelligent.”

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