Many of us can think back on a person who made a positive impact on our careers. Mentors can provide advice, wisdom, and encouragement, as well as new skills and institutional knowledge. For physicians diversifying their careers and/or those seeking leadership opportunities, having a mentor can facilitate growth and development.
The VCH Medical Staff Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee launched a nine-month DEI leadership mentoring pilot program in 2021/22. The program’s goal was to support aspiring and new/emerging physician leaders from under-represented designated groups (women, Indigenous peoples, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, sexual/gender diversity) in achieving their full potential through guidance around organizational navigation, expansion of professional networks, and facilitation of personal and career development. VPSA provided staff support, leadership books and honoraria for mentors, coffee cards for mentor-mentee dyads, protected time for physician organizers, and CME accreditation funds.
“We know that diversity in leadership is of great benefit to our health-care system,” said Dr. Fahreen Dossa, one of the project leads. “It is important our leadership reflects both our staff as well as the populations we care for. The appreciative inquiry that we conducted a few years ago clearly showed the need for more diversity in medical leadership. This pilot was launched to facilitate both mentorship and sponsorship of new and aspiring leaders from under-represented groups.”
Four physician leaders (Drs. Nancy Austen, Erika Cheng, Chad Kim Sing, and Jennifer Yao) were paired with four mentees (Drs. Dirk Coetsee, Jennifer Grant, Alina Gerrie, and Helen Kwoo) for the initial program. All were provided with a handbook tailored especially for the program. Each dyad met at least six times over the nine months and were encouraged to set goals. Most of the groups plan to maintain a relationship that may evolve into sponsorship and lead to more diverse leadership at VCH.
As this was a pilot program, extensive feedback was sought from both mentees and mentors. Opportunities for feedback were both quantitative (written survey) and qualitative (exit surveys, mid-point check-ins). All the mentors and mentees provided helpful, constructive feedback using both modalities. Overall, 100 per cent of the participants were satisfied with the pilot and felt it was a good use of their time: they agreed that the program allowed them to form meaningful relationships. The mentees felt the program gave them the opportunity to meet one-on-one with physicians in leadership positions, which is otherwise not often possible. They also thought they received insightful advice that helped in their personal journeys. The program’s informal structure helped the dyads become better acquainted and have richer conversations. There was a desire for more structure along with working towards explicitly stated goals. The participants would have liked more training in skills building and there were recommendations for revisions to the handbook to include more literature on effective leadership, case studies, leadership courses, and DEI resources. This feedback is being incorporated into future programs, including one that nurse practitioners are planning to introduce.
“We were fortunate to have such a generous and skilled group of mentors and such a talented and committed group of mentees,” added Dr. Dossa. “They all contributed greatly to the success of the pilot, and as a result of their feedback, it has been decided that the program will continue. It will be offered again after CST implementation.”
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