Mentors receive as much as they give

Diversity News: Equity Research Program seeks mentors for 2020

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration. The civil rights leader is widely known for his calls for racial justice. However, he was also a big proponent for volunteerism and education. Dr. King said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

OHSU is fortunate to have many employees who dedicate their time to both teaching and helping others succeed. Among them are the mentors who are part of the Equity Research Program each year. They spend two months in the summer guiding and training the next generation of health care professionals and scientists.

Mentors commit to education and service to others

Dr. Suzanne Mitchell first got involved with the summer internship program in 2006. As a first-generation college student, Dr. Mitchell faced her own challenges and wants to make sure undergraduate students today get the support and experience they need. She has mentored nine students through the program so far, helped create the mentor handbook and put together some of the student activities. She said the ability to make a difference in a student’s life gives her a sense of satisfaction and encouraged other scientists to participate.

The Equity Research Program is an 8-week paid summer internship hosted by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion that offers undergraduate college students from underrepresented or underserved communities hands-on experience. They work in labs all across OHSU. Examples of past tracks include:

  • Biomedical sciences
  • Dental
  • Health systems and policy
  • Medicine
  • Nursing
  • Public health
  • Have your own lab or work space for intern.
  • Have a specific project for the intern to complete in eight weeks.
  • Have one staff person who is able to guide the intern’s activities.
  • Agree to provide support for the intern throughout the program.

Providing real experiences and building pathways to success

Dr. Mitchell is a professor in the Departments of Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychiatry, and also works in the Oregon Institute for Occupational Health Science. Interns in her lab work on research about risky and impulsive decision-making, how neurobiology impacts choice, and behavior based on gene tendencies.

She said that the Equity Research Program is vital in providing real science experiences to students from underrepresented and underserved communities, as well as building a pathway for people from diverse backgrounds to enter academic health centers such as OHSU. “It’s really important because people need to see that this (getting a Ph.D.) is possible,” she said. “[We need] to show them what it’s like to be in higher ed and provide a snapshot of life in research. To give them options.”

The mentor-mentee relationship isn’t a one-way street. Dr. Mitchell said she has learned a few things from her interns over the years. For instance, her students have brought with them unique perspectives and approaches to research and helped her discover different ways to communicate with others. She said being a mentor to undergraduates reminded her of her days as a student and all the things she had yet to learn, and therefore be empathetic to others. “Being a mentor is not just about conducting research,” she said. “It’s about providing academic advice and career options.”

Make a difference in the lives of students

The 2020 Equity Research Program starts in June. If you want to help make a difference in the academic career of a student and are interested in becoming a mentor, here are the eligibility requirements:

  • Have your own lab or work space for intern.
  • Have a specific project for the intern to complete in eight weeks.
  • Have one staff person who is able to guide the intern’s activities.
  • Agree to provide support for the intern throughout the program.

To learn more about the eligibility and expectations for a mentor, please contact Faith Wilson, administrative coordinator, at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at cdi@ohsu.edu.

Leave a Reply