Category Archives: Mentoring

Apr 10 2014
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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
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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.

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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
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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.

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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
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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, DiverseMedicine.org. 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
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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.

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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.

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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
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“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.

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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.

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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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May 13 2013
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The Importance of Mentoring in Achieving Greater Diversity in the Biomedical Workforce

Gary H. Gibbons, MD, is director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health. He is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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Growing up in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Philadelphia, high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks were common. When I got to medical school, I asked one of my professors why the African American community tended to have a higher prevalence of these medical conditions. He introduced me to biomedical science for the first time and challenged me to pursue that question on my own. I've continued to look for the answer to that provocative question ever since.

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Similar to that early experience, mentorship has been a determining factor in my career trajectory. I might not have pursued a research career at all if it hadn't been for Harvard Medical School professor A. Clifford Barger who inspired me to ask and answer difficult research questions. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Harold Amos Program pushed me further with their emphasis on mentorship, which gave me a sense of community with the many scholars interested in the same research problems. It was my experience with a National Institutes of Health T32 training grant when I was starting out as an investigator that inspired me to give back to a younger set of minority researchers by becoming a K Award mentor and leading a T32 program at Morehouse School of Medicine.

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May 3 2013
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Hard Work and Investing in Others Opens Opportunities

Felix German Contreras, 22, of Atlantic City, N.J., credits his 2012 participation in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), and his teachers at the Yale University site, for opening new doors to opportunities. A naturalized U.S. citizen, Contreras emigrated to the U.S. with his family at age 6. He will graduate from Atlantic Cape Community College next year and plans to attend Yale School of Medicine. Started in 1988, more than 21,000 alumni have completed SMDEP, which today sponsors 12 university sites with each accepting up to 80 students per summer session. This is part of a series of posts looking at diversity in the health care workforce.

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Living as an immigrant and student with only part-time employment is a daily battle. But I will never allow these challenges to slay my dreams. With so many struggles, I am often asked: “Felix, how do you do it?”

I cannot help but smile when I reply, as it is not a secret; nor do I believe it is a talent—it is simply a strong work ethic. I have realized the best things in life are the hardest to obtain.

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My doors to new unexpected opportunities were opened when a late-night online search in 2012 led me to the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program. I applied and was accepted at the six-week program’s Yale University site. It was there where I met mentors and students with similar aspirations to improve communities through medicine. Not only did the intensive program place me on a sure-footed path toward a health sciences career, my English improved tremendously through rigorous reading and writing. You can’t believe how much six weeks can give someone who is eager to receive. SMDEP exposed me to countless possibilities on the other side.

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Feb 20 2013
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A Few Thoughts on Mentoring

Christine R. Kovach, PhD, RN, FAAN, is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and editor of Research in Gerontological Nursing.

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Human Capital Blog: Why is mentoring in nursing important?

Christine Kovach: There is ample evidence (see, for example,  the Institute Of Medicine’s Future of Nursing report) that there is a pressing need to continue building our discipline’s capacity to conduct research that advances science, addresses urgent health problems, and informs public policy. Nursing’s perspectives on improving individual and aggregate health are more holistic, contextual and participative than many other disciplines’ perspectives.  These deeply embedded values make our contributions especially valuable and also create the need to often use sophisticated research methods in real clinical situations that have ecological validity.

As the quality, complexity, and contributions of our science continue to grow, the need for intensive, committed mentoring relationships has grown too. Mentoring is an important and pleasurable role for senior academicians and scientists. It is gratifying to see the work of young scholars unfold and develop. It is also rewarding to help mentees develop confidence and clarity as they move forward with their innovations. Mentoring is often perceived as a benefit to the mentee, but I can attest that mentors also benefit from the relationship.

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Jan 29 2013
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RWJF Human Capital Calls for Proposals

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provides grants for people and projects in the United States and U.S. territories that advance the Foundation’s mission to improve the health and health care of all Americans. The following are the current funding opportunities from RWJF’s Human Capital portfolio:

RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars
The RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars program is working to develop the next generation of national leaders in academic nursing through career development awards for outstanding junior nursing faculty. The program aims to strengthen the academic productivity and overall excellence of nursing schools by providing mentorship, leadership training, and salary and research support to young faculty. Applicants must be registered nurses who have achieved high levels of education and nursing research, and must be in an academic position that could lead to tenure for at least two years and no more than five years at the start of the program. Up to 12 awards will be given. The deadline is February 12, 2013. Learn more.

RWJF Clinical Scholars
The RWJF Clinical Scholars program, a collaboration of RWJF and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, seeks to foster the development of physicians who will lead the transformation of Americans’ health and health care. These future leaders will conduct innovative research and work with communities, organizations, practitioners and policy-makers to address issues essential to the health and well-being of all Americans. Eligible applicants must be committed to a career in academic medicine, public health, health policy or another career congruent with the program’s purposes and priorities of developing physician leaders and skilled researchers; applicants must also have completed the clinical requirements of their residency training by the date of entry into the program. Up to 20 applicants will be selected in 2013 for an appointment beginning in summer 2014. The deadline is February 28, 2013. Learn more.

See all the current calls for proposals from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.