Mentoring Early-Career Faculty Researchers Is Important-But First "Train the Trainer".
Academic ArticleEditorial Article
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It has long been known that mentoring is critical to the success of junior faculty researchers. The controlled intervention study by Libby et al published in this issue of Academic Medicine demonstrates that institutional investment in a mentored research career development program for early-career faculty investigators provided significant long-term gains in grant productivity. Academic institutions hoping to replicate this program's success by launching similar mentoring programs for their junior faculty investigators will, however, find that the Achilles' heel lies in the scarcity of skilled research mentors and the relative lack of attention to and recognition of the importance of a supportive institutional climate for mentoring. It is essential, therefore, to begin by developing programs to "train the trainer" as well as programs and policies to support mentors. As a recent trial at 16 Clinical and Translational Science Award institutions demonstrated, competency-based, structured research mentor training can improve mentors' skills.In this Commentary, the authors offer a comprehensive two-pronged framework for mentor development with elements that address both individual mentoring competencies and the institutional climate for mentoring. The framework depicts the gaps, activities, and outcomes that a mentor development program can address. Activities directed at changing the institutional climate related to mentor development should complement training activities for individual mentors. The authors propose that employing this framework's approach to mentor development will lead to the desired impact: to increase the competence, productivity, and retention of a diverse clinical and translational research workforce.