Despite consensus that mentorship is a critical determinant of career success, many academic health centers (AHCs) do not provide formal training for their mentors. In part, this problem arises from a lack of evidence-based mentorship training curricula. In this issue of Academic Medicine, Pfund and colleagues from 16 AHCs, including 15 Clinical Translational Science Award institutions report the results of a randomized, controlled trial that addressed this research gap. In their study, mentors randomized to undertake a formal mentoring curriculum reported significant gains in self-assessed competencies. These improvements were corroborated by the most critical and objective observers of mentorship skills: their own mentees.
Evidence-based curricula will not transform research mentorship in isolation. An organization-wide culture of mentorship is necessary to meet the mentorship needs of all research trainees and faculty. The development of a culture of mentorship requires attention to structural issues such as the provision of protected time, physical resources, and targeted funding in addition to evidence-based curricula. Organizations must monitor the implementation of these structures in the day-to-day process of mentorship. Finally, institutions must develop measures to track outcomes for both mentors and mentees, and create incentives to achieve those outcomes. In the current environment of constrained research funding and competing demands from clinical and educational programs, a substantive organizational commitment to mentorship is necessary to ensure that the next generation of mentees achieves success in translational research.