Guest blog by Ulfat Shaikh, Diana Ha, Nandini Sarma
The UC Davis American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) chapter partnered with the UC Davis Women in Medicine and Health Sciences (WIMHS) program in January 2016 on a speed mentoring event. Over 25 medical students and 15 faculty members gathered at WIMHS Senior Advisor Lydia Howell’s lovely home for the event.
What is Speed Mentoring, you might ask. Speed mentoring is essentially a series of brief, focused discussions around specific themes or questions. The goal is to connect students with faculty members and to identify potential mentors. Students spoke to faculty members in five small groups for about 10‐minutes at each group.
To start off, mentors briefly introduced themselves to each group, providing essentially an elevator pitch – their name and area of work. Mentees then asked mentors either their own questions or questions from a list provided to them to prompt discussion. The prompts were aimed at extracting unique experiences at every level of academic growth. Examples covered topics such as challenges mentors faced, their own experiences finding mentors, and advice on time management and choosing specialties.
Women, specifically, find it more challenging than their male counterparts to identify mentors and to develop relationships with mentors due to time constraints and personal responsibilities. This is amplified for women physicians in male-dominated career fields, such as surgery, anesthesiology, or emergency medicine. Many sources, such as this Guide for Medical Faculty, show that women tend to seek less mentoring and gain less from their mentor-mentee relationship than male counterparts. Women in underrepresented minorities face extra challenges in obtaining mentoring – as they experience the “double jeopardy” stressors of both racial and gender discrimination.
We know that if a mentoring relationship is successful, it can serve as a critical launch pad to a successful career in leadership. The AAMC’s Women in Academic Medicine 2013-2014 report found that only 21 percent of full-time physician-professors, 15 percent of department chairs, and 16 percent of medical school deans are women. Speed mentoring events can facilitate the development of connections that help develop women leaders.
A speed mentoring event provides a structured opportunity to spark connections that can be nurtured over time, and to create a time and place for attendees to seek out and connect with individuals in a fast-paced manner. Frequently a brief meeting is enough time for individuals to identify if a natural affinity and connection exists to take the conversation to the next level.
Medical students found the event particularly useful. The majority of students at our event were in their preclinical years, and lacked the opportunity to meet mentors and faculty members other than in a lecture or classroom setting. By having the event at Dr. Howell’s home and creating an environment of diversity with varying opinions, career and life choices, academic levels, and sub-specialties, students could to ask questions that they may not otherwise get to. From residents who answered questions immediately relevant to medical students, to women in influential leadership positions reflecting on their experiences, the broad range of topics discussed and connections that were made created a truly unique and useful exercise. Students came away with, at the very least, a collection of advice and understanding to help shape their careers moving forward.
Hosting a speed mentoring event can help organizations identify individuals who might be interested in mentoring by design, but at a relatively low cost, both in terms of time and resources. The University of Kentucky Speed Mentoring Toolkit lists the purposes of a speed mentoring event as a place to get quick-hit information, and to engage in time-efficient networking and the methodical pursuit of a mentor.
Holding the event at a faculty member’s home provided for a more intimate and informal opportunity to discuss and network away from the workplace. Also, having a special guest at our speed mentoring event, Dr. Kandice Marchant from the Cleveland Clinic, provided an additional opportunity to gain the perspective of an accomplished woman from another institution.
Although the “methodical pursuit of a mentor” may scare the meek away, our speed mentoring event at UC Davis proved to be a great way for women students and faculty to connect with and support each other in a fun, warm, and informal setting.