MAPP Program Stock Graphic

MAPPing out the academic journey

One of the main goals for academic faculty is career advancement. From understanding the necessary steps to ensuring your CV is up-to-date, and finding a good mentor, the promotion process can be overwhelming when combined with the already hectic schedule of teaching and clinical or research work.

In an effort to reduce the stress of a necessary process such as promotion, the Office of Administration and Faculty Affairs, in collaboration with the Faculty Senate, launched an initiative known as the Mentoring and Promotion Program (MAPP) to help junior faculty chart their own unique path to success in the context of a group mentoring format.

“The idea behind MAPP was that a lot of the faculty were not aware of what the guidelines for promotion were,” said Johnson George, MBA, PMP, assistant dean of Administration and Faculty Affairs. “This was an effort for us to make sure they had an opportunity to learn from their peers.”

The idea for the mentoring program arose in the Faculty Senate when Catherine Ambrose, PhD, was the chair. The then chair-elect Nahid Rianon, MBBS, DrPH, current associate dean for Faculty Affairs and professor and Memorial Hermann Chair in the Department of Family Medicine, chaired the task force to develop a mentoring program for helping McGovern faculty members.

“We talked to Dr. Kevin Morano, senior vice president for Academic and Faculty Affairs and senior associate dean for Faculty Affairs at McGovern Medical School, and it looked like the school was also thinking about doing the same thing at the same time,” Rianon said.

The nine members of the task force decided to adopt a group mentoring process, drawing inspiration from a program led by Keely Smith, MD, FAAP, in the Department of Pediatrics, which had already been utilizing a similar mentoring model on a much smaller scale.

“We had faculty from different backgrounds coming together for this one purpose of advancing their career, getting input and feedback from their peers and from experienced mentors,” George said.

The initial cohort of MAPP participants consisted of 171 faculty interested in being mentored. Participants ranged from assistant to associate professors from clinical and research backgrounds. George was tasked with dividing the mentees into smaller groups with similar interests.

Another factor that played into the division of groups was the busy schedules of both the mentors and mentees. Clinical and research work already requires an incredible time commitment, and the MAPP program wanted to be as respectful of each individual’s time as possible. So, instead of grouping faculty by specialty, the more practical solution was sorting or grouping them by availability and common interests.

““Having the opportunity to be part of a group mentoring program at McGovern Medical School is a fantastic resource to have,” said Dana Giza, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and a participant in the MAPP program “It brings together faculty that may or may not be connecting otherwise and gives them the chance to learn from each other and build meaningful collaborations. Besides the mentoring on professional development, there is a sense of community that is greatly added to the overall experience.”

Groups were then left to decide what was best for them in terms of when and how they would meet. Whether they wanted to be in person or online, the freedom to do what worked in their favor was another highlight to the program.

“There were some groups that were quite innovative and creative in how they met and where they met,” George said. “So, rather than having a Zoom meeting all the time, they would say, ‘let’s meet in an evening, outside of the university somewhere.’ So, it was not restricted to how and where they could meet. We created a platform for them to do this, leaving it for the group to decide what was best for them.”

In the groups, mentees had access to knowledge and guidance from senior faculty who had already gone through the promotion process. Additionally, resources such as books on mentoring and how to be effective mentors were provided as well as additional materials to ensure the success of the mentees.

Meetings for the program covered various topics ranging from learning the promotion process to preparing the mentee’s CV, writing a narrative, and even how to write effective grants for junior faculty with research interests.

“I found the program to be a space where one could be honest about their concerns regarding promotion, ask questions to help guide the path to promotion, and a place where information is shared openly and honestly,” said Carman Whiting, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and mentee in a MAPP group. “The program gave me the confidence to pursue promotion. I would not have done so otherwise.”

Not only was there knowledge shared between individual members in each group, but collaboration also began to spread from group to group. Individuals in one group would meet with groups in another and share strategies that worked in one group that may or may not be effective in another, thus developing more resources that lead to successful promotion.

“Promotion and tenure is a straightforward process, but when it comes to the faculty, it’s a lot of work, with a lot of things to be done and a lot of things to know,” George said. “This program helps them to understand what is involved to understand what their support system is, and more importantly, recognize the resources to ensure success.”

The MAPP program proved to be very effective in its first year. Nearly one-third of all faculty promoted at McGovern Medical School in 2022 were mentees in the program. Most importantly, the mentoring program has led to more collaboration and camaraderie among faculty at McGovern.

“This was group mentoring, but there are other mentoring relationships that have started from this,” Rianon said. “Some mentors have even become sponsors because they learned more about the mentees through the program. That was really good for the mentees to establish that relationship and find that person in their life. We have so many passionate mentors in this school. With our experience and what we have learned, we want to give back but also learn from the mentees as well. It’s a two-way process.”

With new faculty joining the Medical School annually (currently, McGovern has almost 1,800 appointed faculty), there will always be a need for the program, but success would be providing all current faculty with the necessary resources to ensure promotion.

“My thinking has always been, the more years we continue to do this, the number of participants compared to the initial cohort is going to be slightly down,” George said. “The faculty who have participated are more informed, since they’ve gone through the process, so they don’t need any more of this education. Hopefully, they will serve as mentors helping new faculty or those who have not participated in the program.”

The second year of the mentoring program did see those numbers come down, with 90 participants taking part in the second cohort. However, the passion to help those who are seeking promotion in 2023-24 remains the same for the faculty mentors.

“Mentorship is helping people advance in whatever sphere they want to be in and providing them with the guidance to get there,” George said. “We have excellent mentors, and I’m thankful for all of our senior faculty who have signed up.”