Two University of Wisconsin collaborators were recently honored with a prestigious award from the Association of Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS). Christine Sorkness, PharmD, RPh, Distinguished Professor of Pharmacy and Medicine, and Christine Pfund, PhD, Senior Scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education and director of the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experience in Research (CIMER), were honored in March at the 2019 ACTS Annual Meeting with a Distinguished Educator Award for their decades long partnership to improve research mentor training programs for scholars in the biomedical workforce.
Together, Sorkness and Pfund have led programs at UW ICTR to prepare early stage investigators for successful careers in biomedical research, in particular research that speeds the translation of scientific findings into interventions to improve human health. Nominators applauded their passion for improving teaching and mentoring through evidence-based mentor training programs, alongside a deep commitment to diversifying the biomedical workforce. Marc Drezner, MD, former executive director of UW ICTR, comments,
I was privileged to work with ‘the two Chrises’ during my time at ICTR. The mentor training practices they established became national benchmarks for improving the guidance that research mentors provide to their mentees.
Furthermore, they established a train-the-trainer model to widely disseminate their research mentor training curricula and both played leading roles in the NIH National Research Mentoring Network. Ultimately, their mentor training programs reached more than 9500 graduate students, junior faculty, and senior faculty nationwide, a very impressive achievement!
Sorkness and Pfund were nominated on behalf of local and national colleagues by Allan Brasier, MD, current executive director of ICTR and SMPH Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research. UW ICTR receives support from an NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) and is a member of the nationwide consortium of over 60 CTSA sites. Brasier notes,
Our yearly reviews from NIH consistently point to the mentor training program led by Sorkness and Pfund as an important strength of our program. Remarkably, their mentor training programs have reached 75% of CTSA sites across the country. They have really had a national impact on workforce development beyond UW.
As the mentor training programs housed at ICTR expanded, Sorkness and Pfund were able to leverage that success, ultimately becoming leaders in the NIH-NRMN initiative. One outcome of NRMN has been the creation of a new Culturally Aware Mentoring (CAM) module, focused on improving mentor relationships for individuals from diverse backgrounds, communities, and cultures.
Designed to support the NRMN goal of significantly advancing the representation and success of traditionally underrepresented groups in biomedical research, CAM has been delivered as intensive one-day training workshops at select CTSA sites. Other trainings have been held at pre-conference sessions linked to regional and national meetings drawing diverse scholars, such as the CIC Academic Network (Big 10 Academic Alliance).
Pfund and Sorkness have been dedicated to advancing the careers of others and have worked alongside people from diverse backgrounds in an effort to diversify the workforce. Our collaborations in the area of cultural influences on academic and career development have been very productive. Congratulations on a well-deserved honor!
Byars-Winston currently chairs the Committee on the Science of Effective Mentoring in STEMM through the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, of which Pfund is a member.