A formal orientation process exists to introduce fellows to available research opportunities and interests of the faculty. Because the success of any research training program hinges squarely on the ability of first year fellows to make informed and wise mentor selections, our program takes an active interest in trying to optimize their ability to do so. To initiate this educational process, we remove the first year fellows from their clinical services for a one-week period during the first year and conduct an Orientation to the Research Program. This program educates fellows about:
- the generic types of research which exist and some of the potential advantages, disadvantages, and challenges inherent in each.
- specific research opportunities available within our training program.
- the different types of philosophies of research training which exist.
- the responsibilities and expectations of both mentors and trainees.
These aspects of mentor selection are reinforced through individual meetings between the Fellowship Director or Program Director and first year fellows during the process of mentor selection.
By the end of the first year, each fellow will have chosen a primary research mentor. This individual is responsible for the fellow's training and career development.
In many instances, after the fellow selects a primary mentor, a co-mentor will be involved in a team-based research project. Advantages of the team mentoring approach include:
- encouraging fellows to work at the interface between disciplines.
- developing the necessary attitudes and skills needed for team research.
- providing the trainee with complementary perspectives on the conceptualization and execution of a research project as well as on career development. In some instances, co-mentoring by a senior and a junior faculty member allows the trainee to benefit from the experiences of the former in project definition, hypothesis development, career advice, networking, and grant preparation, and from the latter in day-to-day supervision and technical troubleshooting.
- allowing less experienced trainers to learn from more experienced partners.
To enhance the research training experience, each fellow and mentor assembles a research advisory committee including two-four additional faculty members. This committee will usually include the fellow’s primary mentor, secondary mentors, and additional faculty of the fellow’s choice. The specific functions of the Advisory Committee will include:
- identifying other potential faculty who may profitably advise/collaborate on the trainee's project.
- selection of appropriate course work or additional training, based on the trainee’s educational background and the needs of the project.
- assistance in selecting topics and preparing research seminars and oral presentations at national meetings.
- joining with the mentor in reviewing drafts of manuscripts and grant applications.
The Advisory Committee will also provide continuity to the trainee's education by performing the semi-annual reviews of the trainee's progress and transmitting these evaluations to the Program Director.