Research Article: The Evolution of Mentorship Capacity Development in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Case Studies from Peru, Kenya, India, and Mozambique

Date Published: January 14, 2019

Publisher: The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Author(s): Emilia Noormahomed, Pamela Williams, Andrés G. Lescano, Tony Raj, Elizabeth A. Bukusi, Robert T. Schooley, Craig R. Cohen.


Following the Fogarty International Center-supported “Mentoring the Mentors” workshops in South America, Africa, and Asia, approaches and guidelines for mentorship at institutions within these low- and middle-income country (LMIC) contexts, appropriate for the respective regional resources and culture, were implemented. Through the presentation of case studies from these three geographic regions, this article illustrates the institutional mentorship infrastructure before the workshop and the identified gaps used to implement strategies to build mentorship capacity at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (Peru), Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kenya), Saint John’s Research Institute (India), and Eduardo Mondlane University (Mozambique). These case studies illustrate three findings: first, that mentorship programs in LMICs have made uneven progress, and institutions with existing programs have exhibited greater advancement to their mentoring capacity than institutions without formal programs before the workshops. Second, mentoring needs assessments help garner the support of institutional leadership and create local ownership. Third, developing a culture of mentorship that includes group mentoring activities at LMIC institutions can help overcome the shortage of trained mentors. Regardless of the stage of mentoring programs, LMIC institutions can work toward developing sustainable, culturally effective mentorship models that further the partnership of early career scientists and global health.

Partial Text

Effective mentorship is key to the development, success, and retention of early career investigators in research settings.1 Successful mentorship requires not just skilled mentors, but formal mentorship training to both navigate the mentor–mentee relationship and provide guidance on methods to attain institutional support.2,3

A multiple, explanatory/qualitative case-study design was followed. The analysis unit was defined at the country level, but bounded by the relationship with the “Mentoring the Mentor” regional workshops and other key mentoring initiatives.1 Key informants (Emilia Noormahomed, Andrés G. Lescano, Tony Raj, and Elizabeth A. Bukusi) with active roles in the organization of the workshops and in future mentorship efforts were asked to generate a timeline of all major developments and outcomes produced as a direct or indirect consequence of the workshop, and identify gaps, lessons learned, and best practices. Initial timelines were developed during a consultative workshop held April 2017 that included most of the co-authors. The primary analysis approach attempted to capture the heterogeneity in the settings and strategies instead of comparing experiences head-to-head. Accounts provided by the key informants were complemented with web searches in an explanation-building approach. Cases were presented separately and an attempt was made to capture commonalities when available.7

Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia is a private, not-for-profit university, and the leading research institution in the biomedical sciences in Peru,8 and plays a prominent role in South America. It was founded in 1961 and currently has more than 2,000 students spread across eight schools, including medicine, sciences, and public health. Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia is an important regional hub for international collaboration and leads numerous research and training grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust, and other global sponsors, in addition to extensive international partnerships with centers across the globe. Its faculty and investigators include world leaders in their fields and professionals appointed to prominent public positions in government.

The Kenya Medical Research Institute is one of the leading biomedical research institutions in Africa. Constituting 320 researchers and 1,250 staff, KEMRI has made great contributions for the improvement of human health and quality of life through research, capacity building, innovation, and service delivery. The Kenya Medical Research Institute has major research collaborations with the Wellcome Trust, U.S. Centers of Disease Control, and numerous universities around the world.

Established in 2004, SJRI is one of the first independent research institutes in the country to be based in a private medical institution with independent administrative and research infrastructure. Saint John’s Research Institute, as an entity of St. John’s National Academy of Health Sciences (SJNAHS), joins the Medical College, a multi-specialty teaching hospital, the Nursing College, and the Institute of Allied Health and Hospital Administration, to advance health research and train future generations of scientists. The St. John’s Medical College graduates about 100 students each year. Saint John’s Research Institute provides a platform to complete the required dissertation for a portion of these students interested in developing academic careers in research. In addition, about 20 doctoral students per year pursue their PhD under the purview of SJRI.

The UEM, former Lourenço Marques University, was established in 1962 amidst Portuguese colonial rule. Until 2008, it was the only public medical school in the country and continues to stand as the leading academic institution in the country. Universidade Eduardo Mondlane hosts 143 faculty and graduates 70 undergraduates and 65 master’s and PhD students in the health sciences each year.

These case studies reveal that regional mentoring workshops that target senior- and mid-career faculty from LMICs can catalyze the growth of mentorship initiatives across a diverse set of institutions across different regions of the world. As demonstrated in this article, mentorship programs vary greatly between countries in part because of resource availability and length of collaboration with local and international partners. In addition, advocacy that targets institutional leaders and senior faculty can play a central role in encouraging the establishment and enhancement of mentorship programs within these organizations.




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