Sep 7, 2022

Mentorship Groups Promote Equity and Career Success

By Ben Gane

The Department of Psychiatry Mentorship Program began its mission to bring the benefits of mentorship to all the Department’s faculty members last year. The program launched by inviting new faculty to enroll. This year, the focus has shifted to enrolling all faculty members on the online mentorship platform and ensuring that they have access to the workshops and tools the program has to offer.

Dr. Mary Jane Esplen

Dr. Mary Jane Esplen, Vice Chair, Equity and Mentorship, has supervised the Program’s development from its inception.

“Our goal is to support career development, help faculty to feel more engaged and supported, and apply Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Indigenization and Accessibility (EDIIA) principles to how we approach mentorship as a Department,” says Dr. Esplen.

To achieve these goals, the Program is prioritizing gathering feedback and using it to improve the Program’s offerings.

“We’re refining the project as we go in response to feedback,” says Dr. Esplen. “For example, while our online matching tool has produced an appropriate mentor for some mentees, in other cases more support is needed. While the online tool is a good start, sometimes an interview is necessary so we can identify specific nuances and needs and seek out a mentor who fits those needs.”

Dr. Adriana Carvalhal
Dr. Adriana Carvalhal

Dr. Adriana Carvalhal and Dr. Teresa Lim are two faculty members who have connected through the Mentorship program and are enjoying its benefits.

“Through my career, I have been so grateful that I had the opportunity to have great mentors,” says Dr. Carvalhal. “I thought that the Mentorship Program would provide me with an opportunity to support junior colleagues in the same way I have been supported. It’s turned out to be a rewarding experience as well a learning opportunity, as I’ve learned how to be a better mentor.”

“I’ve improved my ability to communicate and listen, and developed a better understanding of how my experience and strengths can support my mentee’s needs.”

Dr. Teresa Lim
Dr. Teresa Lim

As mentee, Dr. Lim is also enjoying her experience.

“Being a part of the Mentorship Program has been the best thing that has happened for my career since graduating from fellowship,” says Dr. Lim. “Adriana has helped me by providing a different perspective as I make key decisions about my career path.  Currently I am interested in expanding my involvement in leadership and teaching, and Adriana has been pivotal in providing advice as to how to further develop these aspects of my career.”

The launch of mentorship groups was one the biggest developments in the Program this year, and provides an excellent example of how dialogue drives the Program’s evolution. Some groups bring together faculty members in specific roles or areas of scholarship (for example, clinician scientists roles or clinician teachers) to discuss their careers and support one another. Others offer communities of practice oriented around social identities, including Uplifting Women, Underrepresented Genders and Diversity in Academia (UPWURD) and the mentorship group for International medical graduates.

Regardless of their membership, the groups set their own agendas, with participants providing information on their needs and engaging in discussion to determine group’s areas of focus.

“Attendees have been fantastic about providing input,” says Dr. Esplen. “We have recruited outstanding leaders for each group, with the goal of having a more junior co-facilitator lead alongside a more senior co-facilitator. This is an excellent model, and we are hoping that most groups will have a blend of senior, mid, and junior career faculty to support their needs.”

This self-guided approach means that structures and goals vary from group to group. Some groups will assist in skill development; some in sponsorship; some provide emotional and social support in navigating and managing an academic career.

Dr. Sakina Rizvi
Dr. Sakina Rizvi

Dr. Sakina Rizvi is a Co-Lead of the status-only faculty (PhD) Mentorship Group. She came to the group looking for insight from colleagues further along the status-only career path.

“Learning how people developed specific skill sets is a big benefit,” says Dr. Rizvi. “It’s important to build your networks of support to be effective as an academic. Attending a mentorship group is a valuable step towards that. So much can be learned from others.”

So far, she’s found the mentorship group to be helpful and enjoyable.

“It’s been amazing just to have a space to meet other PhD researchers in the Department,” she says. “It helps build a sense of community.”

There’s still plenty more to come for the Mentorship Program. The next annual mentorship survey is being planned. Mentorship is being built into the Department’s other structures to ensure mentorship activity will be recognized during the promotions process, re-appointments, and other Department processes.

The Program will also continue working to get all the Department’s faculty members on registered into the platform and program.

Dr. Carvalhal and Dr. Lim both readily recommend the Program to their colleagues.

“Just sign in!” says Dr. Carvalhal. “It is a great opportunity not only to foster a culture of mutual support in our Department but also an opportunity for your own development.”

“I think that the mentorship program is an invaluable experience, especially earlier in your career,” says Dr. Lim. “Medical school, residency, and fellowship training all prepare us very well for the clinical work but sometimes we need more guidance with other aspects of our careers.  I feel that the mentorship program helps to bridge that gap.”

As with any major undertaking, the Mentorship Program is a team effort.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Danica Kwong, the Department’s Strategic Plan Coordinator who has been tireless in helping with logistics, launch, and supporting groups. I’d also like to thank my mentorship work group for their amazing support and input throughout this process.”

Dr. Esplen is excited to continue working on the Program and learning alongside the Department’s faculty members.

“Everyone’s career will have challenges and situations that can best be addressed with support, mentorship, and guidance,” says Dr. Esplen. “Mentorship is key to navigating career transitions, and it’s deeply rewarding to bring those benefits to our faculty members.”