Volume 1-Fall 1995
The Importance of Good Mentoring Is Recognized at Harvard Medical School
According to many experts, success in an academic or professional field often requires the assistance of someone willing to sponsor, support and encourage another's career development -- a mentor. In medicine and science, a long tradition of these fruitful apprenticeships is revealed through the careers of many famous scientists and physicians and in the first winner of the first annual Harvard Medical School Excellence in Mentoring Award. Steven Burakoff credits Baruj Benacerraf, George Fabyan Professor of Comparative Pathology, Emeritus and David Nathan, Robert A. Stranahan Professor of Pediatrics, as two of his mentors and important factors in his achievements today. "I was lucky enough to have good role models and two people who cared about and really listened to me."
William Silen, faculty dean for faculty development and diversity, believes that many careers "have floundered and even failed because people have not had adequate mentoring." Silen adds that since starting the Faculty Development and Diversity (FDD) office it has become very clear that people are "crying out for mentoring." He cites the many phone calls he has received requesting assistance and information about mentoring. A successful mid-day program on mentoring given by the office drew a full house to the Carl Walter Amphitheater in May with promises that another mentoring program would be forthcoming. That program, Excellence In Mentoring, is scheduled for Thursday, November 16, 1995 from 4:00 pm to 6 pm in the Carl Walter Amphitheater (see Upcoming Programs for more details). A reception to celebrate the new award will follow in the Atrium.
The award for Excellence in Mentoring was established to stress the importance of mentoring to faculty development as well as the desire to "recognize the positive efforts made by our faulty" according to Joan Reede, assistant dean for faculty development. Making this award a yearly event serves to emphasize its importance to our office and to our faculty, according to Silen.
The award process began when letters requesting nominations were mailed to all HMS and School of Dental Medicine faculty and students last spring. An overwhelming number of responses were received with faxes and frantic last minute calls for extensions marking the deadline. A selection committee comprised of senior faculty and FDD administrators evaluated the 247 nominees. Letters of recognition were sent to all nominees in recognition of the quality mentoring experiences attested to by students, fellows, housestaff, and faculty at all ranks from the medical school and almost all the Harvard affiliates. Finalists were individuals who had demonstrated a long-term commitment to mentoring of many different individuals, from the student to faculty level.
Steven Burakoff emphatically states, "Mentoring is a moral imperative!" He believes mentoring involves commitment and responsibility and "You have to know what people need even when they can't say it. You have to create an environment where people are comfortable coming to talk to you. My responsibility is to be as gentle and forthright as possible."
One of Burakoff's mentees, has this to say about him, "he has the breadth and imagination to support varied career paths...[a] great ability to support diverse individuals in their careers...and to give generously of his own time and visibility for our benefit" and from another, "He invests an enormous amount of effort into promoting the scientific quality of the projects of all of his postdoctoral fellows as well as junior and senior investigators...He demands that all members of the laboratory maintain respect for the work of others and sets very high ethical standards."
On September 20, 1995 Burakoff was honored for his mentoring efforts during a meeting of the Faculty Council. A plaque inscribed with the name of this year's winner and all future winners will be mounted for permanent viewing in the Medical Education Center.