The Minority Genetic Professionals Network (MGPN) mentoring program facilitates one-to-one mentoring relationships that connect mentees with leaders in the network to foster professional learning and development. MGPN is focused on increasing access to genetic services for communities of color by addressing the limited racial and ethnic diversity among medical genetic professionals.
Few high school and undergraduate students are aware of career opportunities in these professions. MGPN supports diverse students to explore and enter training programs for genetics professions. MGPN also serves as an organized space where racially and ethnically diverse genetic professionals can connect and have support to become leaders in their professions.
Mentorships can last over a period of months or they can be a one-time flash mentorship on a specific topic. In this article, we talk with Sylvia Mann, Supervisor of Genomics Section at the Hawaii State Department of Health, about what mentoring means to the Health Department and the diversity and equity of genetics professionals at large.
Mentoring format: 1:1
Number of Participants: 732
Type of Matching: Admin Match
Duration of Mentoring Connections: 270 days
1. What sort of role has mentoring played in your life up to this point?
It has been very rewarding to mentor prospective minority genetic counseling students. My mentee applied for the masters level genetic counseling programs for this year and she got into the program I graduated from 30 years ago.
2. What was the reason the Hawaii State Department of Health started a formal mentoring program with the Minority Genetic Professionals Network?
We wanted to increase the number of minority students choosing to become genetics providers, especially for the genetic counseling field. Genetic counselors spend the most time interacting with families and 90% of genetic counselors are White. Minority families need genetic counselors they can relate to who look like them, understand their culture, and speak their language to fully take advantage of genetic information and testing. Other health professions have been able to use a mentoring program for prospective students as a way to increase the number of minority students to enter their profession.
3. How does your mentoring program play a part in your overall DEI strategy?
The MGPN also provides mentoring for current genetic counseling students in training and practicing genetics providers as a way to be successful in school or their careers. MGPN has developed into a network able to communicate with and support each other. We also provide training and education to help prospective students, current students, and practicing genetics providers develop leadership skills, provide support (i.e. racial healing, allyship, etc) and learn how to advocate for themselves and others.
4. How did you go about promoting your mentoring program before and after the launch of it?
We advertise the availability of the mentoring program at conferences, through listservs, training programs, at our annual virtual genetic counseling career fair and through word of mouth. We also discuss the program when we do local, regional and national presentations.
5. Is there a difference in how you think about engaging students vs. how you think about engaging current genetic professionals in the program?
The current genetics professionals are in a defined catchment. The prospective students can be anywhere. However, we do concentrate on promoting events like our annual virtual career fair to schools and programs that have high concentrations of minority students (e.g. historically Black colleges and universities, SACHNAS, etc).
6. What are the Department’s metrics of success for the mentoring program?
We have different metrics for the three main groups: prospective students, current student trainees, and practicing genetics providers. We actually are in the process of fielding a survey to our MGPN members to help us evaluate our successes.
- For prospective students, we look at students that apply and get
interviews and those who interview and then get matched to training
- For current trainees, we look at what MGPN activities they use, how they
feel supported during their training, the degree of networking provided,
and successful graduation.
- For the practicing genetics providers, we look at we look at what MGPN
activities they participate in, how they feel supported, the degree of
networking provided, and movement to leadership positions.
7. What is the biggest impact mentoring software has had on mentoring in your organization?
It made it easier to handle our mentoring program for management and matching.
8. Beyond your career mentoring program, how else are you looking to evolve mentoring across your employee experience?
We are in the process of doing our first big survey and then interviews and focus groups for our mentoring program. Hopefully, the information we collect will help us figure out how to evolve the program.
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