According to the National Institute of Health, the best mentors are advisors, coaches, counselors and supporters all at the same time. They are experienced researchers who will guide your research, but also challenge you to develop your independence. A good mentor will help you define your research goals, and then support you in your quest to achieve them. He or she will share knowledge, provide encouragement, and hopefully inspire you. In addition to promoting your research, your mentor should help you to develop your career goals and construct a scientific network. Above all, your mentor should be someone you trust to always keep your best interest in mind.

Mentors at the T32 Training Program, the Multidisciplinary Training Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology are no different. The mentors associated with the training grant represent a variety of experience with appropriate expertise who are available to support trainees in their research. All mentors have strong records as researchers, including recent publications and successful competition for research support in areas directly related to the proposed research training program. In addition, each mentor has a strong record of training individuals.

Mentoring on the T32 Training Program is not limited to the trainee’s primary research mentor. The training grant strives for a team of mentor resources for each trainee, including a primary research mentor, a Career Mentor, and a Peer Mentor network. By mentoring on a team approach, trainees are able to gather information and resources from a variety of information sources.

Identification of a primary research mentor occurs during the application process in which the mentor formally agrees to:

(a) serve as the trainee’s research supervisor;

(b) provide the program with feedback concerning the trainee’s achievement of milestones; and

(c) reports to the program directors any delays in milestone achievement. Typically, the primary research mentor for post-doctoral trainees is the faculty member supervising the trainee’s research project and who has expertise in the major training track chosen by the trainee.

The primary research mentor will be identified within three months of joining the training program and will assist the trainee in the selection of a research project, help her/him prepare the original research proposal for review by the T32 Executive Committee (EC), and then oversee progress of the research. In addition to frequent meetings (with the research team including the biostatistician), the primary mentor will meet the trainee at least once every week for recording the trainee’s progress, comparing it to individualized development program (IDP) milestones, and documenting progress in manuscript and grant writing; written records will be reviewed quarterly by the T32 Executive Committee (EC).

Assignment of a career mentor

Each trainee meets with the program directors early in their first year to discuss career development milestones and personal goals and develops an IDP. The program directors then assign a career mentor (based on the individual’s goals), who refines the IDP and meets with the trainee throughout their training period. The career mentor is also usually a faculty member of the training program but may be from a research discipline distinct from that of the primary research mentor. This latter point is critical so that the trainee is free to discuss perceived problems with the research project and training plan.

Development of peer mentoring network

The program will facilitate a peer mentoring network by hosting trainee luncheons once a month. Additionally, weekly meetings are encouraged among the trainees in which the mentees can informally discuss progress in their research plans, manuscript preparation and grant writing, thereby creating an informal multidisciplinary network. The literature indicates that focusing on one trainee every week in peer group meetings and circulating documents ahead of the meeting translates into greater research productivity (number of manuscripts completed) and efficiency (ratio of completed to total number of projects started). We will monitor these metrics to evaluate success of the peer mentoring network.