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Celebrating National Mentoring Month

, by CRCHD Staff

National Mentoring Month is January 1–30. Mentorship is a key part of building a more diverse cancer research workforce, and CRCHD is proud to support mentorship in many of its programs. This month, we are pleased to share perspectives and insightful guidance from mentors and mentees. Please check back on this post throughout the month, as new perspectives and information will be added over time.

CRCHD Mentorship Q&As

We asked CRCHD’s community of mentors and mentees to reflect on their experiences and share their advice on mentorship. Check out the advice below from Elena Martinez, Ph.D., Carlos Penilla, Dr.P.H., and Steven De La Torre, Ph.D., M.P.H., and be sure to follow along throughout January as we share more perspectives from mentors and mentees.

Elena Martinez, Ph.D.

Photo of Elena Martinez, Ph.D.

What are the most important components of being an effective mentor in cancer research?

Develop open, bi-directional communication. To be an effective mentor, I must have a clear understanding of my mentee’s needs, goals, and metrics of success. This sounds relatively straightforward. However, mentees might not always have clarity about these, requiring that I work with my mentee to develop them. Sometimes, the mentee thinks that they have to follow a specific path, yet they do not feel comfortable telling me or their other mentors that they do not want to follow it. In these instances, I work with my mentee and their mentoring team to provide alternatives for a successful career in cancer research.

Put my mentee’s career before my own. To be an effective mentor, I have to take a personal interest in my mentee. It takes a high level of unselfish commitment to put one’s needs aside for the benefit of mentees. What is best for the mentee might not be best for the mentor, at least not in the short run. Effective mentors know that mentoring is a two-way learning street—I learn so much from our mentees. Thus, I do not find this to be challenging at all.

Provide constructive feedback without forgetting positive reinforcement. Some of my best mentoring came in the “tough love” era, where the emphasis was on weaknesses and areas of improvement. Because this is what I felt was most effective for me, I had to learn over the years to provide my mentees positive feedback. Generations that came after mine crave this and thrive from it.

Paula Aristizabal, M.D., M.A.S.

Photo of Paula Aristizabal, M.D., M.A.S.

How did the mentorship you received from Dr. Elena Martinez prepare you to obtain your first R01?

As a Hispanic pediatric oncologist, it was critical for me to receive mentorship from Dr. Elena Martinez, a very accomplished Hispanic researcher whom I could relate to, as we share the Latin culture. She has provided selfless guidance, support, and reinforcement of my potential in academic medicine as a cancer researcher. She empowered me to give the best of me since my fellowship and gently pushed me to the next level while helping me navigate research waters. She taught me to always have my R01 and my “next grant” in sight. She has been an extraordinary role model for an underrepresented minority woman in the biomedical field. My relationship with Dr. Martinez and my own background have played a significant role in how I currently approach mentoring. I’ve come to understand that mentorship is about applying what I’ve learned through my lived experiences. It’s about nourishment and encouragement, showing genuine care and commitment to the mentee. It’s crucial to understand the challenges of the mentee to effectively help and support. In sum, an effective mentor is the person who, with patience, helps you pave the way to a successful independent researcher career. I am very grateful for the excellent mentorship I received that help me achieve my goal: Obtaining my first R01! Gracias, Dra. Martinez!

Bryan S. Valcarcel, M.D., M.P.H.

Bryan S. Valcarcel, M.D., M.P.H.

How has your mentor, Luis Malpica Castillo, M.D., helped you grow personally and as a researcher?

Dr. Malpica’s mentorship has influenced my approach to research by emphasizing the human aspect of science while teaching and providing me the opportunity to hone and foster my skills. His vision of integral science and the value of teamwork has been pivotal in shaping my personal and professional growth.

Carlos Penilla, Dr.P.H., and Steven De La Torre, Ph.D., M.P.H.

To view the videos from Drs. Penilla and De La Torre, click the links below or visit this webpage. Video transcripts are also available.

Carlos Penilla, Dr.P.H., and Steven De La Torre, Ph.D, M.P.H. video thumbnail images



You may also view the videos on CRCHD's social channels:

Efrén J. Flores, M.D., and Elyse R. Park, Ph.D., M.P.H.

In a recent Dialogue on Disparities blog post, we spoke with Dr. Efrén J. Flores — who recently received a CURE K08 Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award—and his mentor, Dr. Elyse Park.

Efrén J. Flores, M.D. and Elyse R. Park, Ph.D., M.P.H.


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