We would like to thank Chang and colleagues for taking our work seriously and adding value with their insightful comments on the need for mentoring in scientific communication. We agree with both their premise and concrete suggestions for ways to conceptualize scientific mentoring skills within our Mentoring Competency framework.1,2
Chang and colleagues go beyond a focus on general scientific communication to elaborate on the challenge “for mentors and mentees for whom Standard Academic English is a foreign language.” This issue raises awareness about cultural diversity factors associated with academic acculturation, which influences scientific training, specifically within the mentoring relationship. All individuals are shaped by the social, cultural, and historical context in which they live and work. Therefore, how mentors and mentees understand the deep and superficial aspects of their lived experiences and their racial and ethnic group identities must be inclusive of sex, gender, language, and social class if we are to fully understand the complex nature of their mentoring experiences. Simply put, the entire continuum of cultural diversity matters is salient in all aspects of human life, including scientific training and research mentoring.
Therefore, we must not only build the capacity of research mentors to effectively advance the careers of mentees, but we must also prepare “master mentors” who can respond to the social, cultural, and emotional needs of mentees who may come with a wide array of “identities,” and focus special attention on individuals from underrepresented populations. Such training could stand alone or be integrated into each of the competencies noted in our article and as articulated by Chang and colleagues. The newly funded National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN; www.nrmnet.net) will provide needed infrastructure upon which to build and sustain mentor–mentee training interventions that are scientifically sound and culturally responsive.3 Through NRMN, we can reimagine what excellence means for mentors and mentees from diverse cultural backgrounds being mindful of the fact that racial and ethnic minority mentees are being trained by leaders across a wide range of both minority- and majority-serving institutions. It is incumbent that all of these institutions be prepared to contribute substantively to the diversity of the biomedical workforce. This is a clarion call from NRMN to the entire academic research community to join us in generating new ideas on how best to expand training to address the challenges and opportunities raised by Chang and colleagues.
Christine Pfund, PhD
Director, Mentor Training Core, National Research Mentoring Network, and associate director, Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine and Public Health, and researcher, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin; email@example.com.
Christine A. Sorkness, PharmD
Associate director, Administrative Core, National Research Mentoring Network, and senior associate executive director, Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.
Angela Byars-Winston, PhD
Associate professor, Department of Medicine, School of Medicine and Public Health, and director of research and evaluation, UW Center for Women’s Health Research, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.
Stephen B. Thomas, PhD
Associate director, Mentor Training Core, National Research Mentoring Network, and professor, Health Services Administration, and director, University of Maryland Center for Health Equity, School of Public Health, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland.
1. Pfund C, House SC, Asquith P, et al. Training mentors of clinical and translational research scholars: A randomized controlled trial. Acad Med. 2014;89:774–782
2. Fleming M, House S, Hanson VS, et al. The Mentoring Competency Assessment: Validation of a new instrument to evaluate skills of research mentors. Acad Med. 2013;88:1002–1008
3. Byars-Winston A. What makes mentoring work? Perspectives from psychological theory and research.Presented at: Department of Medicine Grand Rounds, University of Wisconsin-MadisonMarch 28, 2014Madison, Wisconsin