For IHPME alumni the urge to give back to the community that supported them through their graduate school years is as strong as ever. To encourage this connection, the IHPME Graduate Student Union launched a Mentorship Program directed at HSR students, one of the larger cohorts at the Institute. The primary goal was to provide HSR students with an opportunity to connect with and learn from alumni in their field of research, as well as tap into the vast experience that our alumni have within the health system.
One year later, the program has been well-received by both mentors and mentees alike.
“2017 was a pilot year for us, as we didn’t know how many of our alumni would be interested,” said Julia Ho, a PhD student in Health Systems Research, who helped develop the mentorship program for the IHPME GSU. “We were pleasantly surprised to have had over 17 mentor and mentee matches, and it is something that the GSU and Institute are looking to continue.”
While mentorship had been taking place among new and senior students for some time, feedback from students indicated that they wanted to understand the types of career paths that were possible for them after graduation, especially for PhD students.
“The mentorship program gives you an opportunity to discuss with someone outside of the Institute what you need to improve upon as a researcher,” said Jennifer Gutberg, a fourth year PhD student in IHPME’s health services research stream. “Whether it is developing strategies for publication, or leveraging existing professional networks, the mentors seem very happy and eager to help us move forward.”
Navigating the course of graduate school can be challenging, there is a lot for students to consider as they move from one stage of their research to the next, from comprehensive exams to proposals, to chapter writing and case study analysis. Mentors, many of whom are not far removed from their time as graduate students, provide a model for students with respect to academic or non-academic career trajectories, and help them to explore all possible options.
“I think many of us will end up with hybrid careers that involve both academic research and industry leadership and collaboration,” said Gutberg, “it was motivating for me to hear from someone else like my mentor Shannon, about how they also chose to move through these different paths.”
As a mentor Shannon Sibbald has found a perfect match for her skill set and her capability to give back to the IHPME community. An assistant professor at Western University, Sibbald is often juggling the competing demands of her job but still wanted to give back to her alma mater and engage meaningfully with emerging leaders.
“I’m very drawn to new programs and when this opportunity came up, I was eager to be involved,” recalled Sibbald. “It’s a perfect fit, that allows me to give back in ways that are not just monetary.”
Though Sibbald is located off U of T’s campus, the mentorship program provides flexibility in that mentors and mentees can engage in the program online via Skype.
“One of the great things about this program is that I also get to maintain my connection to the University and IHPME,” said Sibbald.
While the mentorship program is currently geared towards health services research students, IHPME is working to expanding this to include all programs as well as the professional streams of the Master of Health Informatics and Master of Health Science in Health Administration.
Gutberg emphasizes the benefits of the mentorship program for students, particularly senior graduate students. “Even if it is just to step out of your comfort zone, it is a tremendous opportunity to develop a connection with someone who can provide new insights or more immediate support for research,” she said.
Those interested in becoming a mentor and providing support for graduate students transitioning from student life to a career are invited to fill out this form: https://
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