|October 2010, Issue 8|
Although family medicine is an old profession, the practice of family physicians conducting primary care research is relatively new. It remains somewhat uncommon for family physicians to develop major research careers. Because of this, when family physicians do decide to enter the field, finding guidance on how best to blend the demands of being a practicing family physician and a primary care researcher can be somewhat challenging. It wasn’t that long ago that there were few research mentorship opportunities available for family physicians and most had to learn through an often frustrating and time consuming process of trial and error. However, as time passed, these pioneers tended to became the first group of family medicine research mentors. These mentors played an integral part in the recruitment, training and success of many of the field’s current researchers. Today, at the Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM), a critical mass of family medicine researchers is growing and so too is the role of mentorship in the success of both new and experienced family medicine researchers.
The Associate Director of the DFCM Research Program, Dr. Paul Krueger, explains that the departments’ Research Scholar Program, which provides protected research time for family medicine researchers, was created in 1995 “with the idea that these individuals would increase the quantity and quality of primary care research within the department”. Through the development of a new Research Mentorship program to be launched this fall in conjunction with the revitalization of the Research Scholar Program, the DFCM hopes to meet the challenge of providing more formalized mentorship opportunities to its researchers.
The new program aims to offer mentorship services to family medicine researchers based on individual needs such as: stage of career; research interests; academic backgrounds; research environment; availability of resources; amount of protected research time; as well as the personal qualities of both mentors and mentees. Dr. Krueger emphasizes that “everyone can benefit from the experiences and mentorship of other researchers and clinicians” explaining that mentorship services will also be available for experienced researchers who are looking to increase productivity, utilize new methodologies or explore new areas of interest. Echoing this idea at the July DFCM Research Rounds, Dr. Richard Glazier, who received the Department’s inaugural Research Mentorship Award, insisted that “everyone can be a mentor; even if they are only a few steps ahead of their mentee, they have something to share”.
Both mentors and mentees stand to gain tremendously from working with each other. Working in extremely competitive environments that require researchers to continually acquire new skills and knowledge, mentorship is an avenue for both mentors and mentees to ensure that they remain relevant, innovative and competitive. In a small and sometimes isolated profession, mentorship can also help create a sense of community, provide new networking possibilities, result in shared studies and publications and foster ideas and dexterity that would not result without these particular collaborations. Recognizing the importance of mentorship within the field of family medicine research, the DFCM is committed to acknowledging the value of mentorship as important academic work with opportunities for all recorded mentorship activities to be taken into account for academic promotion and annual reviews.If you are interested in becoming a Research mentor or mentee and would like more information on the new Research Mentorship program please contact Dr. Paul Krueger at firstname.lastname@example.org or the DFCM Research Administrator at email@example.com