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Mentoring clinical researchers
  1. Howard Bauchner, US Editor

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In the United States, over the past decade there has been increasing recognition of the importance of clinical research as evidenced by the birth of a new federal agency1 and commitment of funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)2 and private foundations.3 I have been fortunate to mentor a number of fellows and junior faculty over the past decade, and would like to share my experiences with others.

The importance of mentoring has been acknowledged for decades. Many successful senior investigators identify early positive role models and mentors as critical to their success.4–8 More recently, in a survey of over 1100 junior faculty from 24 nationally representative US medical schools, faculty with mentors reported more professional support from their institutions for teaching, research, and administrative activities.9 Faculty who were mentored also had a higher perception of their research skills and an increased likelihood of being awarded research grants.


Mentoring can be defined as a reciprocal relationship between an advanced career incumbent (the mentor) and a junior faculty member (the protégé) aimed at fostering the development of the junior person/protégé.10 At various times the mentor serves as teacher, sponsor, advisor and model. Levinson argues that the most critical function of the mentor is to support and facilitate the realisation of a Dream—a Dream to succeed, accomplish, and leave a legacy.11 The concept of mentoring is drawn from a Greek myth. Odysseus leaves to fight the Trojan war—Mentor, his friend, is left behind to guide the journey of Telemachus, Odysseus's son, from youth to manhood.

Mentoring is often divided into two categories: research and career.8,12–14 It is important to distinguish between research and career mentoring because they differ in: (1) goals; (2) skills; and (3) the fundamental relationship between mentor …

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