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Darshana Shah

HUNTINGTON - Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine now offers a Women in Medicine and Sciences (WIMS) Mentoring Circle. This mentoring circle connects women in various stages of schooling and careers and acts as a support group.

Darshana Shah, Ph.D, associate dean of faculty advancement at Marshall's School of Medicine, said the mentoring circle goes beyond traditional mentoring, which is simply one on one.

"Mentoring has always been a very successful tool for career advancement," Shah said. "The traditional mentoring is if you have an interest in research then you find a person, and it's one on one. That's a traditional dyad model."

In the mentoring circle, six to eight mentees are grouped together in domains, or circles specific to their needs, with a mentor they can relate to. Shah said her office is still finalizing the details, but there are six to eight domains as well. These include grant writing, learning a specific type of technology used in the school and building professional networks and identities.

"What we did in our program, we basically asked folks which area they would need help and support in," Shah said. "These are not the sort of skills that are taught in medical school."

Shah said the women involved build a culture of connectivity, inclusiveness and empowerment. The mentoring circle connects women at different points in their life and careers; they may begin in one mentoring domain and join another when other issues arise in their schooling or careers. Shah said women in the mentoring circle can teach each other many different things. For example, some students may be able to teach faculty about different forms of technology, while older, experienced faculty will be able to share their experiences and advice from working in their field.

"Those mentors are there to advise you, not only professionally, but sometimes in your life cycle of a career span you have certain issues and they come into the picture of helping," Shah said. "But the way in higher education, especially in academic medicine, the life cycle, you don't need all these mentors at the same time as your inflection point in career changes you need different mentors. So this concept of circle is basically sort of helps you with all these different types of mentoring if that is what is needed."

The mentoring circle officially kicked off June 26 with a forum consisting of two guest speakers, Shlomit Schaal, M.D., professor at University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Tamela J. White, a member of Farrell White & Legg, PLLC. More than 50 women attended the event, and Shah said more than 60 women have signed up to be part of the program, whether as mentors or mentees.

"The WIMS forum was incredibly empowering and uplifting," said Lexie Blalock, WIMS executive council member and Ph.D. student in biomedical sciences in a press release. "It was encouraging to hear that many women, regardless of their success or academic position, often encounter the same challenges. The guest speakers provided excellent advice to overcome personal and professional obstacles and tools to become effective communicators and leaders."

Shah said her office is still looking for more mentors, and those interested may email mooneym@marshall.edu.

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