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Mentor Spotlight: Monica L. Baskin, PhD

, by CRCHD Staff

Mentor Dr. Monica L. Baskin (left) with mentee Dr. Tiffany L. Carson (right)

Inspired by this year’s National Minority Health Month theme, Bridging Health Equity Across Communities, CRCHD is celebrating mentors by in a new series of blog posts. We asked Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) program scholars to tell us about a mentor who has made a difference in their career development and will periodically feature their stories.

One of the successes of the CURE program is that CURE scholars often go on to become mentors to the next cohort of CURE scholars. Not only does this relationship benefit the individuals, but as this cycle continues, it ensures that even more underrepresented researchers are getting the support needed to become independent investigators.

Dr. Monica L. Baskin, PhD, is one example of a former CURE scholar who was inspired to become a mentor herself. Dr. Baskin is a professor and Vice Chair for Culture and Diversity University of Alabama at Birmingham who was recognized by her mentee, Tiffany L. Carson, PhD, MPH, for the guidance and encouragement that she provided. 

Dr. Carson is an Assistant Professor, also at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who currently has an NCI Mentored Research Scientist Development Award to Promote Diversity (K01). She is investigating the interplay of behavior, environment, and the microbiota in colorectal cancer risk. Here is what Dr. Carson had to say about Dr. Baskin:

“I am enthused to have the opportunity to nominate Dr. Monica Baskin to be celebrated for her mentorship. In every way, she exemplifies what it means to be an excellent mentor. Wisdom, generosity, selflessness, passion, and honesty are just a few of the traits that Dr. Baskin possesses that make her an excellent mentor. I can distinctly recall conversations, guidance, and resources that Dr. Baskin has provided for me at every stage of my training and career development that have led me to where I am today.

“I can always depend on Dr. Baskin to provide me with the complete picture and not just the scenario that would serve her personal interests. She has always encouraged me to truly evaluate who I want to be, what I want to do, and determine the best path to getting there.

“Dr. Baskin, also a former CURE trainee through the Diversity Supplement mechanism, takes the responsibility of mentoring very seriously and understands the unique needs of underrepresented minority faculty members. With Dr. Baskin’s mentorship and support, I was able to successfully compete for an NCI Diversity Supplement and a K01 Career Development award which currently supports my research and training.

“In addition to providing me with scientific mentoring about conducting sound rigorous science, Dr. Baskin has also given me invaluable guidance about being successful in my career while still maintaining balance in my life. I am very fortunate to have connected with her at an early stage in my training. She was one of the first people that I saw that looked like me doing academic research. She was one of the first people that made me realize that I could and should do this.

“I am extremely proud of Dr. Baskin’s contributions to research and to other young investigators. I am honored to have the opportunity to be a part of her story and to have her as a part of my story.”

She [Dr. Monica Baskin] was one of the first people that I saw that looked like me doing academic research. She was one of the first people that made me realize that I could and should do this.” — Dr. Tiffany Carson


Dr. Baskin shared her thoughts on the importance of being a mentor:  

“I have greatly benefited from mentorship throughout my career and see my role as a mentor as a way to show my gratitude to the mentors in my life. It is an awesome responsibility to advise and help guide others to realize their goals and maximize their potential. For me, mentoring is personal. It starts with mutual respect and trust between the mentor and mentee and a singular shared goal “seeing the mentee succeed.”

“It has truly been my pleasure to be part of a mentoring relationship with Dr. Tiffany Carson. I first met Tiffany when she was in graduate school. A former trainee of mine prepared to leave for a doctoral program elsewhere and recommended Tiffany as someone who could fill her shoes. I offered Tiffany a research assistant position and I was immediately impressed by her work ethic and intellectual curiosity. These qualities continued to serve her well as she secured a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F31) for her dissertation research and a competitive NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowship out of state.

“So, when I bumped into Tiffany at a conference near the end of her postdoc, I seized the opportunity to recruit her back to UAB as tenure-track faculty member in my division. While she was somewhat reluctant to interview for the position due to unfounded concerns that she would not be competitive, the search committee and I clearly saw her accomplishments to date and the outstanding potential she had to be a leader in cancer disparities research.  

“As her mentor, it has been personally rewarding to work with Tiffany. She is not only intelligent, hardworking and passionate about her work, but she is also receptive to feedback and malleable with respect to how we work together to get her to her ultimate goals. She is off to a tremendous start having secured an NCI-funded Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research within months of starting her faculty position and more recently an NCI-funded K01 award.

“Needless to say, my job as her mentor is pretty easy. I share with her what I have learned, connect her with others for second opinions, advocate for her when needed, coach her through new or challenging experiences, and stand on the sidelines with pompoms in hand to cheer on her many accomplishments (including the attempts that may not land exactly as planned).”