UNMC works to facilitate mentoring for academic faculty

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | February 10, 2014

Image with caption: Rowen Zetterman, M.D.

Rowen Zetterman, M.D.

It's easy to think of mentoring as a relationship between faculty and their students, residents or fellows. But faculty themselves can sometimes need mentoring as much as anyone on campus, said Rowen Zetterman, M.D., professor of internal medicine.

A study in the journal Academic Medicine found that more than a quarter of full-time faculty consider leaving their med school appointments, thanks to a host of frustrations. The Chronicle of Higher Education has called life as an associate professor "isolating and overwhelming."

Despite having achieved highly sought positions, many faculty find that their new dream jobs turn out not to be all rainbows and lollipops, but instead mostly committee meetings. Achieving tenure may even trigger a mini mid-life crisis.

Mentoring between senior and junior faculty can help ease this transition, Dr. Zetterman said. It also can help junior faculty -- and their departments, colleges and institutions -- reach their full potential, and reduce turnover.

Dr. Zetterman has taken on the cause, in his role as director of UNMC Faculty Mentorship Development. His goal is to see formal mentoring established between junior and senior faculty at all of UNMC's colleges and schools.

"As I meet with junior faculty members, they're excited and they want to be mentored by the senior faculty," Dr. Zetterman said.

"And I've talked to some faculty who are frustrated that they weren't, who believe their careers would have been better had they been mentored. I've talked to some new faculty who are frustrated because they have been unable to find a mentor. Maybe they've been told, 'I'm too busy, I don't have time for you.'"

It can be tough for senior faculty to find that time, Dr. Zetterman said. But it's worth it -- not just for the junior faculty's career, but also for UNMC as a whole and for the senior faculty's career and experience, too.

Mentoring is a two-way relationship, Dr. Zetterman said. He noted that some C.V.'s feature not only the authors' accomplishments, but also a list of those they have mentored, and what their mentees have gone on to do.

Currently, the College of Dentistry has an official mentoring program, Dr. Zetterman said. The College of Nursing plans to follow suit.

But the hope is to see a culture of formal commitment campuswide. To find out more about mentoring or mentoring opportunities at UNMC, call or email Dr. Zetterman at 402-559-5108.

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