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Mentoring committees have been employed by institutions of higher learning for many years. They are typically composed of several senior faculty members, each with different expertise and experience related to the junior faculty member’s career goals, but none with direct supervisory or evaluative authority over their mentee.
At medical schools, physician faculty mentoring committees usually include a senior member of their division (as lead member), a senior faculty not from their division but in a similar career track (e.g., clinician educator, physician scientist, clinician investigator, etc.) and usually from their parent department, and a third (or more) person(s) who may be selected by the mentee, or chosen to bring specific experience desired by the mentee into the group (in clinical or institutional administration, bench research, clinical trials, undergraduate medical education, or graduate medical educational administration, for example). They add to the resources available to each junior faculty for mentoring, spreading both the mentoring work and responsibility among several faculty beyond the mentees’ direct and secondary supervisors. Mentoring committees meet with their charges formally once or twice each year, to review the accomplishments of their charges; to assure that the individual’s activity plans are fully consistent with their college’s promotion and tenure requirements; and to advise on any changes which the committee feels are needed in the stated plans. Frequently the mentee will have additional communications with members of their committee throughout the year, to ask about specific projects, request additional advice, or perhaps convey information on life or professional occurrences which may necessitate amending their development plans and move into another direction. Additional meetings may be requested by the mentee or committee lead when needed. The role of these mentors is to advise, facilitate, and at times advocate for, their charges. Although formal data are unpublished, mentoring committees are generally felt to promote scholarly productivity, improve faculty satisfaction, and perhaps improve recruitment by demonstrating the institution’s commitment to career success of their faculty. Acknowledging the importance of mentoring, committee members are regularly recognized for their work by their departmental leadership.
All instructors, assistant professors and early (pre-tenure and first 3 years as associate professors) in any career track and based at any practice site should be offered mentoring committees. Exceptions may be career assistant and associate professors (with more than 5 years on faculty as of the 2011-12 academic year) in non-tenure accruing tracks who fill a primarily clinical role and who do not anticipate promotion or wish further career development beyond their present level. New hires and those with less than 2 years on faculty are expected to have a mentoring committee.
Each mentoring committee should be composed of a non-supervisory senior faculty member from their division as lead member; a second senior member from the Department of Medicine (but from outside their division) in a faculty career track similar to that of the mentee; and a third member selected by the mentee (for new arrivals unfamiliar with available faculty, the committee could request temporary participation from non-supervisory departmental leadership until such time that the mentee can identify a selected member, or a specific type of member needed for their specific career path). Mentees may request that the members be changed, or the membership expanded, by providing supporting information/justification to their lead committee member, or to the Vice Chair for Faculty Development (VCFD), or the Chairman of Medicine (COM).
Each mentoring committee will meet with its charge within 3 months of beginning their faculty employment to determine faculty track, convey School promotion criteria for that track, and assist in setting preliminary plans for the first academic year, and again approximately 6 months later to assist the mentee refining and formalizing their career development plan. They will assist the mentee in completion of a written plan, focusing on 3- and 5-year goals and objectives. This plan will then be submitted to the COM or designee (division chief or vice chair) for approval prior to institution.
Committees will subsequently meet with their charge at least once annually (in the spring prior to the annual faculty evaluation). In preparation, the mentee will prepare and submit a summary of their activities, year to date, to the members. The lead member or mentee may request one or more committee meetings as deemed necessary for the individual, particularly when major track or career goal changes are being considered; when the mentee is falling behind on achieving interim goals; or when other factors arise suggesting additional advice and guidance may be desirable. Committee members may, at the request of the mentee, meet with the division chief, department chair, or other supervisory leadership to advocate for their charge.
The lead committee member, usually a senior member of their division, will coordinate meetings and other formal communications as needed.
To avoid conflicts of interest, committee members must not participate in supervisory functions related to the mentee, including but not limited to performance evaluations or disciplinary processes.
In accepting an appointment to a mentoring committee, each member will agree to provide reasonable availability to the mentee for additional advice and counsel as may be requested by the mentee. They will provide all necessary contact information to assure open and ready communication. Participation in mentoring committee(s) will be acknowledged as a significant academic contribution in the annual faculty evaluation of the members by the COM; senior faculty can expect to commit an average of 5-20 hours annually to their role on each mentoring committee.
The fundamental responsibility for one’s own career success always rests with the individual. Mentoring committee members volunteer their time and effort to assist their charges in achieving that success. To this aim, mentees will prepare necessary summary materials documenting their accomplishments during the year and submit these to their committee members prior to their annual or other scheduled meetings; attend scheduled meetings; to be forthright during all communications with committee members; and to make sincere efforts toward fulfilling the plans jointly developed for their academic success.
Mentees may request changes in committee membership for a number of reasons (see above), including removal of specific members, member substitution, or expansion of the committee to more than 3 members when specific mentoring needs so dictate. He/she may ask the committee to meet with their division chief, department chair, or other departmental or medical school leadership for specific advocacy.
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