Interdisciplinary Mentoring: Findings from a National Substance Abuse Fellowship Education Project
Antonnette V. Graham, PhD, Case Western Reserve University and Jeffrey A. Morzinski, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin.
Abstract: Although mentoring has been widely used as an important process for professional development, sparse attention has been paid to the influence of interdisciplinary professional skill development. This presentation will describe the mentoring component of an interdisciplinary, nation-wide, two-year fellowship regarding substance use disorders called Project MAINSTREAM. From a pool of national applicants, Project directors selected senior health professionals who had expertise in substance use disorders to be mentors to each team. After a structured orientation, the mentors were assigned three university faculty, each of whom represented a different health discipline. The faculty members had applied to the Project as a team and, thus, were familiar with each other. Few of the team members, however,knew the mentors to whom they were assigned. Some of the mentors were in located in distant communities to the teams, and most of the mentors represented different disciplines from the mentees. This presentation will discuss various aspects of mentoring, including the influence of cross-disciplinary mentoring, distance mentoring, and functions which mentors performed that supported and challenged fellows to complete fellowship tasks. Methods: Findings were obtained from data acquired when mentees completed a post-program telephone interview. The mentoring instrument consisted of 24 items, based on a pre-tested, published instrument. Analysis used descriptive statistics, t-tests for group comparisons and content analysis for text-based data. Results: Thirty-six mentees (92%)completed the final survey. Results include high rates of satisfaction with mentors, learning, skill acquisition, and changes in teaching practice. While some cell sizes were low, group comparisons showed that geographic distance is not a factor in mentoring outcomes, mentees with same-discipline mentors rated program impact higher than fellows with other-discipline mentors, and high levels of mentor support or challenge are significantly and positively associated with program outcomes. Conclusions & Implications: Substance use disorder fellowship training is positively influenced by a structured mentoring program. Findings on distance, cross-disciplinary mentoring and mentor functions should aid planners and policy makers who are considering mentoring as a method for continuing professional development.