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The success of an individual student in the Scholars in Clinical Science Program is strongly associated with the competence and availability of the student’s research mentor. Therefore, the value of the mentoring experience cannot be overemphasized, and the program administration is dedicated to ensuring that each student is linked with a senior researcher who has proven skills in mentoring students in clinical research.

When an applicant is accepted into the Scholars Program, his/her mentor is also notified and is asked to review and sign a Mentoring Responsibilities Agreement, which reads as follows:


Scholars in Clinical Science Program
Mentoring Responsibilities Agreement

We are pleased to inform you that Dr. _____________ has been accepted into the Scholars in Clinical Science Program (SCSP), and you have been identified as his/her mentor. The SCSP consists of three general educational approaches: (1) a series of didactic degree-quality courses; (2) a longitudinal clinical research seminar series; and (3) most importantly, a mentored clinical research project. We strongly believe that development of the Scholar depends upon a specific, intensive mentored research experience under the direct supervision of an accomplished clinical research investigator like you. As with bench-research programs, the optimal clinical research training experience will take place in the laboratory of a well-established investigator with an independent, extramural-funded research program.

The success of this mentor-directed, hypothesis-driven intensive research experience is largely dependent on your willingness to guide the Scholar in this effort and to protect his/her time to achieve success in this endeavor. The SCSP requires a student to have 80% protected time during the first year and 75% the second year. The SCSP is not prescriptive as to how the 20% clinical effort is comprised in the first year, since some training programs wish to intersperse outpatient and inpatient responsibilities. However, the 80% protected time is critical to the student’s success, given the time commitment required to pursue SCSP-related activities. Typically, one half-day clinic involves more than 10% effort. Indeed, many healthcare systems allocate 12.5% effort for each half-day clinic session to accommodate for out-of-clinic time (e.g., phone calls, medical refills, review labs). We anticipate that students will also attend clinical conferences in their divisions and departments, thus adding to their clinical time. Therefore, a successful model that has been effective for prior students is to have one half-day clinic weekly. For most ACGME-accredited programs, this allocation is also adequate to maintain their required longitudinal experience.

The Scholar will be required to submit a project title and abstract to the SCSP Committee on Mentoring (COM) before the summer session begins in July. To facilitate this process, we expect that you will meet with the trainee at least once before the program begins to work with him/her in accomplishing this task.

We believe that, in addition to training in the techniques and processes utilized in your research laboratory, effective mentoring is essential for the development of excellent clinical research investigators:

“Mentoring plays an important role in the conveyance of research standards to trainees. Trainees not only draw from their mentors’ scientific expertise but also infer from the words and actions of their mentors notions about responsibly conducting research, preparing grant applications, interacting with colleagues and preparing articles for publication. Laboratory supervision, one activity encompassed by the concept of mentoring, is critical to assessing the professional development of the trainee and to ensuring the integrity of projects in which individuals other than the principal investigator may play a role.”
(AAMC, Teaching the Responsible Conduct of Research, p. 93)

We believe that an effective mentoring environment consists of three components:

1. The mentor preceptor is responsible for overseeing the research project. Specifically, the mentor supervises, at regular intervals, the design and conduct of the study, the scientific and clinical details of the investigation, the analysis of generated data, and the preparation of manuscripts and presentations for publications and meetings, including the “oral thesis defense” presentation at the conclusion of the two-year training program. Additionally, the perspective of the university medical center regarding ethical and regulatory issues in human investigation should be continually reviewed.

2. As a second tier in the mentoring system and to assist in the development of a cohesive program, each Scholar is appointed a “program advisor” from the COM. This individual is responsible for oversight of the student/mentor relationship, offers career guidance, and participates on the student’s thesis committee. An additional component of our advisory system is a group of individuals called “key contacts.” The key contact group is composed of members of the faculty or administration who have special insights or expertise to offer trainees. These individuals are junior and senior scientists who have taken a special interest in the SCSP and are invited to attend program functions to get to know the Scholars formally and informally.

3. The Longitudinal Clinical Research Seminar series provides formal instruction to Scholars in a number of areas related to the mentoring experience. The main thematic components of the seminar series are Career, Personal, and Scientific Development; Grantsmanship; Preparing and Presenting Research Findings; and Ethics in Clinical Investigation.

Because the role that you will play in your Scholar’s development will be instrumental in determining his/her success as a clinical researcher, and because high-quality mentoring is key to the overall success of the SCSP, we are providing you with a booklet on mentoring—Advisor, Teacher, Role Model, Friend—and ask that you sign and return the attached form indicating your support for your Scholar.

[The form includes signature lines for the mentor and student and must be countersigned by the mentor’s department chairperson.]

Mentors and incoming students are also required to attend a Student/Mentor Orientation Session, before the program begins, to introduce them to the program curriculum, policies, and governance. At this session the composition and function of the student’s thesis committee is also explained. Time is allotted for Q&A, and mentors are given a complimentary copy of the book, “Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and Engineering,” published by National Academy Press, which provides a useful example of how the Scholars Program views the mentoring experience. Students and their mentors are also given a Student/Mentor Handbook that describes the Scholars Program in detail and provides a suggested timeline for completing the program in two years.