Share this article on:

Reducing Health Disparities Through a Culturally Centered Mentorship Program for Minority Faculty: The Southwest Addictions Research Group (SARG) Experience

Viets, Vanessa Lopez PhD; Baca, Catherine MD; Verney, Steven P. PhD; Venner, Kamilla PhD; Parker, Tassy PhD; Wallerstein, Nina DrPH

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181ad1cb1
Minority Faculty

Purpose: Ethnic minority faculty members are vastly underrepresented in academia. Yet, the presence of these individuals in academic institutions is crucial, particularly because their professional endeavors often target issues of health disparities. One promising way to attract and retain ethnic minority faculty is to provide them with formal mentorship. This report describes a culturally centered mentorship program, the Southwest Addictions Research Group (SARG, 2003-2007), at the University of New Mexico (UNM) that trained a cadre of minority researchers dedicated to reducing health disparities associated with substance abuse.

Method: The SARG was based at UNM’s School of Medicine’s Institute for Public Health, in partnership with the UNM’s Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions. The program consisted of regular research meetings, collaboration with the Community Advisory Board, monthly symposia with renowned professionals, pilot projects, and conference support. The authors collected data on mentee research productivity as outcomes and conducted separate mentee and mentor focus-group interviews to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the SARG program.

Results: The SARG yielded positive outcomes as evidenced by mentee increase in grant submissions, publications, and professional presentations. Focus-group qualitative data highlighted program and institutional barriers as well as successes that surfaced during the program. Based on this evaluation, a Culturally Centered Mentorship Model (CCMM) emerged.

Conclusions: The CCMM can help counter institutional challenges by valuing culture, community service, and community-based participatory research to support the recruitment and advancement of ethnic minority faculty members in academia.

Dr. Lopez Viets is research assistant professor, Department of Psychology, Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions, and a Southwest Addictions Research Group mentee, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Dr. Baca is visiting research assistant professor, Pediatrics Adolescent Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, and a Southwest Addictions Research Group mentee, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Dr. Verney is assistant professor, Department of Psychology, Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions, and a Southwest Addictions Research Group mentee, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Dr. Venner is research assistant professor, Department of Psychology, Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions, and a Southwest Addictions Research Group mentee, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Dr. Parker is assistant professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Center for Native American Health, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Dr. Wallerstein is professor, Masters in Public Health Program, Department of Family and Community Medicine, School of Medicine, and principal investigator and mentor, Southwest Addictions Research Group, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Please see the end of this article for information about the authors.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Wallerstein, Masters in Public Health Program, MSC 09 5060, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131; telephone: (505) 272-4173; fax: (505) 272-4494; e-mail: (nwallerstein@salud.unm.edu).

© 2009 Association of American Medical Colleges