Category Archives: Mentoring

May 23 2012

Meet the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program

This is the first in a series of blog posts introducing programs that are part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Portfolio. Funded by RWJF, the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) offers intensive and personalized medical and dental school preparation to freshman and sophomore college students from underrepresented groups and disadvantaged backgrounds. The goal is to help them overcome barriers to medical or dental school.

file Carmen Young

Meet 26-year-old Carmen Young, a May 2012 graduate of the University of Louisville, School of Medicine who begins her obstetrics and gynecology residency at St. Mary’s Hospital in St. Louis this summer. Her 8th grade commitment—from dream to destination—has been realized with a boost from the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP). Carmen pledges to build a practice that improves outcomes for Black mothers and their babies.

file Adrienne Perry

Meet Adrienne Perry, 23, whose eyes were opened to the vast oral health problems faced by adults and children during a trip to Guatemala. That trip, coupled with six weeks of intensive classes through SMDEP, awakened the third-year Howard University School of Dentistry student to similar oral health gaps faced by people in urban communities surrounding her campus in Washington, D.C. When she gets her degree, this Conyers, Georgia native plans to address the oral health crisis among underserved communities both here and abroad. Today, just 12 percent of the nation’s dentists are from minority populations.

file Drew Gehring

And meet Drew Gehring, 24, from rural Garrison, North Dakota. He also participated in SMDEP and was inspired to dive into research probing the causes of colon cancer, hoping to contribute to curing the disease.

SMDEP gave these and other students from economically disadvantaged or medically underserved communities a jumpstart to open educational opportunities and clear career paths to medicine or dentistry. They are among the more than 20,000 alumni of the program.

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May 10 2012

I Believe This About Nursing...

Happy National Nurses Week! The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has a proud history of supporting nurses and nurse leadership, so this week, the RWJF Human Capital Blog will feature posts by nurses, including leaders from some of our nursing programs. Check back each day to see what they have to say.


Every month, New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) asks its scholars to submit personal stories about their decisions to pursue careers in nursing. These students—who have undergraduate degrees in other subjects and have chosen to become second career nurses—have unique life experiences and views on the importance of the profession. The topics of their essays range from how their NCIN scholarships have enabled them to pursue careers in nursing, to events that may have shaped their decisions to become nurses, to their unique perspectives on their career choices.

Below are excerpts from the most recent winners of the “This I Believe About Nursing” essay contest.


Angelo Llanes: For the first two decades of my life, I definitely did not want to do it.

“Until my senior year at Rutgers University, I had never aspired to be a nurse. Quite conversely, as a Filipino I attached a stigma to the nursing field considering it the ‘easy’ or ‘expected route’ when I wanted to find ‘my own route’… My experience at the internship became a life changing event. I began to feel that I couldn’t continue pursuing a career in business… To me, nursing had almost come like a calling. When I recognized it, there was nothing left to do but follow it.”


Inetra Langley: Nurses help save lives, make a true difference and inspire those around them.

“For me, there was no question that my calling in life is to be a nurse. Unfortunately, life had another plan for me… While completing my undergraduate degree, I worked in the Emergency Department (ED) for three years. I shared with the nurses my plans of one day following in their footsteps. Without hesitation, many of them took me under their wings and taught me all about quality patient care in the role of a nurse. That invaluable experience has been my motivation for pursuing a nursing career for many years.”


Gregory Curry: Nurses can help their patients muster inner strength in times of need.

“As I scanned the faces of my classmates I saw individuals not much older than my oldest son. I felt an inner gnawing of fear; did I really belong here in nursing school, at my age? …Then I centered my mind on a conversation my younger sons and I had at bed time; both had been discussing the fears they have during the night, and as I walked in, simultaneously they asked, ‘Dad, what are you afraid of?’ I kissed them each on the forehead while tucking them in bed and answered, ‘Nothing, boys. Your dad is afraid of nothing.’”

Learn more about the “This I Believe About Nursing” essay contest and see all of the winners.

May 9 2012

A Mentor, An Educator, A Shaper of Public Policy - A Nurse

Happy National Nurses Week! The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has a proud history of supporting nurses and nurse leadership, so this week, the RWJF Human Capital Blog will feature posts by nurses, including leaders from some of our nursing programs. Check back each day to see what they have to say. This post is by Jacquelyn Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN, director of the RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars program and Anna D. Wolf chair and professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing.


Nurses are known mostly as caregivers, but we also play important roles as educators, mentors and even in shaping public policy. I believe strongly that one of the most important roles all nurses play is that of the educator and mentor for new nurses. No matter in what setting they work, nurses are involved in educational endeavors. You don’t need to be faculty. In clinical settings, nurses at the bedside are preceptors for students and even those who aren’t formally teaching often work alongside nursing students and are their mentors and role models – keeping a watchful eye over the students as they practice their nursing skills, providing feedback and guidance until they get it right.


Education and mentoring are a natural extension of the caregiving role we all associate with nursing. Mentoring is how we care for new nurses who are caring for our patients and the public. We mentor in a variety of ways, through coaching, role modeling and facilitating their growth and development so that they become better and more competent nurses. In education, nursing faculty have the privilege of working with individual students who have the same scholarly interests. They also have opportunities to mentor students toward doing research and scholarship, so that those students are helping to generate evidence to show what nursing interventions work best and what’s cost-effective. Evidence that can help to shape policy to improve the health and health care of our country.

I know from personal experience that being a mentor is immensely satisfying. When my mentees achieve their goals, that experience is every bit as exciting to me as when I achieve my own goals. I know that I have helped them aim high and that because of that, they are making a real difference in the lives and health of families, communities and our country.

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Apr 11 2012

A Dream Comes True: A Single Mom with Five Kids Becomes a Nurse

By Christy O’Keefe, RN and member, 2009 cohort, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Jobs to Careers program


My name is Christy O’Keefe and I am currently an emergency room RN at the Owensboro Medical Health System Hospital in Kentucky. I had always dreamed of becoming an RN. I love working one-on-one with patients and their families and working as part of a team, with my coworkers, to help improve patients’ health. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Jobs to Careers program helped to make that dream into reality for me when I participated in the program’s 2009 cohort, the first in our area. It was a partnership between Owensboro Community and Technical College and the Owensboro Medical Health System.

At the time, I was a 36-year-old single mom with five kids, doing administrative work for the hospital. I needed to maintain my full-time job for the income and insurance benefits, so it would have been impossible for me to attend classes at our local, traditional nursing school because their classes were held during the day. The RWJF Jobs to Careers nursing program allowed me to work full time during the weekday, go to classes and do my clinical work on weeknights and weekends. Some of the classes were even held at my job.

Not only did obtaining my RN degree help improve my family financially, I am now able to spend more time with my family because I work 12-hour weekend shifts and have the weekdays off to be there for my kids.

Was the road to my dream easy? No, not always, there were some days I would doubt myself and my ability to make it through. But if you think about it, usually the things we want the most are the things we have to work the hardest for—otherwise those achievements would not mean so much.

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Apr 4 2012

Mentoring the Next Generation


Robert Otto Valdez, PhD, is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) professor of family & community medicine and economics at the University of New Mexico. He serves as executive director of the RWJF Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico, a national program office for increasing diversity in health and health care leadership.

I have come to learn that mentoring is tricky business. Luckily, my own mentors often played the traditional role that Homer described of Telemachus’ mentor, a fellow named (logically enough) Mentor. They nurtured, protected, and educated me on the ways of the academy and have guided me in my professional career decisions. For some reason unbeknownst to me, they assumed I should take my “rightful” place in the academy and as a leader.

Through their wise example, I learned that mentors help their protégés set goals and develop standards and skills. They protect their protégés from others, so that they can take risks and potentially fail in a safe environment. They facilitate their protégés’ entrance into professional circles. But, so much of my mentoring depended on luck, on developing relationships that had the “right chemistry,” or on already being in the “right circles.”

What about young scholars who were not alumni of particular institutions that facilitate entry into powerful social networks, or who are without family connections that facilitate entry into academic or professional circles? How are they to be mentored? If Lady Luck fails them and they find no mentor, unfortunately they remain abandoned outside our professional circles. I find this to be the case for many young scholars from under-represented minority communities. Role models and faculty from their communities remain rare in our nation’s institutions of higher education. Thus, in many institutions the need persists for a more systematic approach to preparing young scholars.

At the RWJF Center for Health Policy, we’re trying to do just that, providing seminars and workshops that transmit to all our affiliated young scholars the formal and informal knowledge and skills they need to become successful scholars and policy analysts. But, we also focus on leadership development, so that our graduates are ready to take on their rightful leadership roles in our society. Our first cohort—doctoral graduates and post-doctoral scholars—have successfully started tenure track positions for which they are well prepared to succeed.

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Feb 27 2012

The Faces of RWJF Human Capital

For 40 years, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has been investing in people, or “human capital,” with the potential to be bold, innovative change agents, capable of improving the health and health care of all Americans.

Watch a video featuring current Scholars and alumni from RWJF programs who exemplify this commitment, as they discuss how the programs have affected their careers and lives.

Learn more about the RWJF programs featured in this video: Clinical Scholars, Health Policy Fellows, and Executive Nurse Fellows.

Feb 3 2012

New Careers in Nursing: "A Whole New Direction"

Karen Jennings, MS, RN, PMHNP-BC, is a scholar with New Careers in Nursing, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. In 2011, she graduated from William F. Connell School of Nursing at Boston College, and currently works as a nurse practitioner at McLean Hospital.


Throughout my undergraduate education, I prepared myself to pursue a PhD career in Clinical Psychology. I sought research opportunities outside of my course load, completed a senior thesis, and even held a part time job in the psychology department. I knew that I was destined to help others on a larger scale and advocate for significant changes in the field of mental health.

After graduation, I chose to develop my knowledge and experiences in research, and became a research assistant. However, after two years of working in research, I realized that I had limited clinical experience. Instead of applying to graduate programs, I decided to work as a mental health specialist at McLean Hospital for another two years. It wasn’t until I actually started preparing my graduate school applications that I realized I did not really want to become a clinical psychologist.

The nurses at McLean Hospital had mentioned on several occasions that I should consider a career in nursing, and I always disregarded their suggestions. However, I noticed how they made a more significant impact on the lives of others, through both medical knowledge and more advanced clinical skills, while simultaneously providing individuals with comfort and security.

I began to realize that pursuing a career in nursing would give me the opportunity to not only be a leader in providing patient care and educating patients, but I would also be able to coordinate health care services. I decided to give serious consideration to a career in nursing and began investigating master’s programs in the Boston area. After considerable contemplation, I decided to abandon my initial plans to be a clinical psychologist and start a new career, in nursing.

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Jan 25 2012

RWJF Program Provided Career Development, Research Support for Junior Medical School Faculty

As the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Physician Faculty Scholars program comes to a close this year, RWJF has released a powerful new publication that tells the story of how the initiative filled a critical gap in physician career development. For six years, the program has provided promising young physicians who have begun their academic careers the opportunity to carry out research to improve health and health care.

More than 60 scholars from a broad range of disciplines have received funds and protected time to support their research, and active mentorship by nationally recognized leaders. In addition to the stories of several scholars, the new report details the program’s specific strengths and challenges, provides information on the program’s evolution, and assesses important findings for the field.

Read the new publication on the RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars program.

Learn more about the program.

Jan 9 2012

Maggie Mahoney Improved Health by Supporting Innovative Thinkers in Health and Medicine

By Desmond K. Runyan, MD, DrPH, national program director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program

file Desmond Runyan

I was deeply saddened to learn that Margaret E. “Maggie” Mahoney, a pioneer in health care and philanthropy, passed away recently. As head of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars program, an influential and acclaimed physician training program that Mahoney helped create, I have the great honor of carrying out one aspect of her great legacy in health and philanthropy: improving health and health care by supporting innovative thinkers in health and medicine.

Mahoney herself was one of those innovative thinkers—and I am so grateful she had the courage to stand by her unconventional convictions.

I never met Maggie Mahoney, but I attended a talk she gave to the RWJF Clinical Scholars program annual meeting Scottsdale, Ariz., back in 1980, if I am not mistaken. Then the head of the Carnegie Foundation, Mahoney described the origin and original purpose of the program and sent a clear message that the program would continue into the future. If the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ever ceased supporting it, she said, the Carnegie Foundation would adopt it as its own.

This is but one story illustrating the great and lasting influence Maggie had on health and health care. She certainly influenced my career, and she also improved the lives of some 1,200 Clinical Scholar alums, and countless patients and other medical providers all over the country.

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Nov 15 2011

An Aspiring Doctor Finds Someone to Show Her the Way to Medical School... and Gives Back

Danielle Wright, a 2005 alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Project L/EARN program, is now working toward her MD and MPH. Here she offers her perspective on the need to help a diverse range of students succeed in medical school.


I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was in middle school. There were no doctors in my family or physician mentors available to me in those years, but that didn’t matter to me. By the time I was in college, I figured I was good to go. I was headed to medical school to become an obstetrician. I knew I had to take specific science classes, take the MCATs, get letters of recommendation and maybe even do some summer programs—no problem. It wasn’t until I actually started preparing my application, around my junior year, that I realized I was lost. I knew what to do, but I didn’t really know how to do it. I was overwhelmed by the number of applications, appointments and forms. I quickly discovered that there were a lot of potential pitfalls in the medical school application process.

Getting into medical school is difficult for even the most capable applicant, regardless of background. But, the process becomes even more challenging if you are a member of a group traditionally underrepresented in the medical profession. Not because there is anything different about you as a potential student, but because not that long ago, medicine was a closed, elite club. That means that if you hit a wall in the application or academic process and begin looking for that trusted role model, mentor or advocate, there’s seldom anyone there to show you the way.

Fortunately, as an undergraduate student at Rutgers University, I found ODASIS—Office for Diversity and Academic Success in the Sciences—a program for minority students interested in the health professions. ODASIS not only provided the guidance I needed to apply to medical school, but advice on how to succeed in my career. Next, I participated in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Project L/EARN. The program was very important to me for two reasons. First, I was introduced to medical research and public health and I realized I loved them both. After the program, I changed my major from biology to public health and decided I wanted to become a researcher as well as a clinician. In addition, I had no idea that questions about conducting medical research would come up in my medical school interviews, but they did. Thanks to Project L/EARN, I was prepared and a stronger applicant than I would have been without participating.

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