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Mentoring, career development, and diversity: Q&A with Dr. Doris Rubio


Dr. Doris RubioThis month, we were pleased to talk with Dr. Doris Rubio about her just-launched Professional Mentoring Skills Enhancing Diversity program (PROMISED) that is a supplement to the NIH-funded National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN).

Tell me about the PROMISED program. When and why was it formed?

The PROMISED program launched on September 1, 2016 and is designed to help mentors, who are committed to building a diversity workforce, to improve their leadership skills. As professors and researchers, we aren’t really taught how to manage others so this program helps to fill that training gap – and build critical leadership skills.

What activities does the PROMISED program offer? Have minority researchers found them?

There are two parts to our program: an in-person event and a fellowship with online training modules. The first two-day career coaching event is taking place in Pittsburgh this week. Our mentors will learn the skills needed to coach and facilitate career guidance with their mentees. Ultimately, our goal is to have mentees feel confident in self authoring their own career trajectories.

Our fellowship program includes a series of one-month online training modules that will occur monthly from September to June 2017. The modules will teach our fellows how to be better leaders and will include online and offline activities.

Anyone who is at the associate professor level or above is encouraged to apply to the program but it’s essential that they have a commitment to creating more diversity in the workforce. For this session, our mentors come from 16 states: California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

PROMISEDWhat challenges have you faced as you built PROMISED and its programs?

So far our biggest challenge is having so many great applicants but not being able to accept everyone. There has been considerable enthusiasm about the program but in order to make the fellowship work, we selected just 30 fellows to participate. We have a dozen modules and everyone wanted to participate in all of them. Some modules, like “Strategic Planning” were extremely popular and we had to limit enrollment.

Can you share any "breakthrough moments" when you realized that PROMISED might achieve its goals -- and reach the researchers you want to help most?

PROMISED officially launch on September 1. And last week’s Orientation was definitely our breakthrough moment. It was that moment when we felt everyone’s enthusiasm and realized this is really happening! I’ve started teaching the “Understanding Academia” module. Our first synchronous session was also filled with such enthusiasm, so it was another great moment for the program. Other professors have contacted me offering to teach modules – and I had expected that I’d have to convince people to teach – so that seems like a breakthrough too!

How do PROMISED, NRMN and the NIH Diversity Program Consortium programs work together?

PROMISED is supported by NRMN which is funded by the NIH Diversity Program Consortium. All of our PROMISED fellows are committed to – and are very enthused about helping to diversify the workforce. We have a couple of our fellows who are from BUILD sites and next year, we want to specifically target faculty from the 10 BUILD sites for the program. We also have a partnership with six Minority Serving Institutions with our Leading Emerging and Diverse Scientists to Success (LEADS) where we are training junior faculty and postdocs from these institutions to help launch their research careers.  So, we will use our partners to advertise PROMISED to more senior faculty at their institution.

first PROMISED career coaching event

Dr. Doris Rubio with participants of the first PROMISED career coaching event, Pittsburgh, September 15, 2016.

What future PROMISED activities would you like people to know about?

We will be holding more career coaching events May 17-19, 2017. And soon, we’ll be opening the application for the 2017 Spring Session so we look forward to receiving applications from many more great candidates. Please “like” PROMISED on Facebook so you can stay informed about program deadlines!

In addition to leading PROMISED at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Rubio is Professor of Medicine, Biostatistics, Nursing, and Clinical and Translational Science; Director, Data Center, Center for Research on Health Care; Co-Director, Institute for Clinical Research Education; Director of Academic Programs, Institute for Clinical Research Education; and Co-Director, KL2 Clinical Research Scholars Program.

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