Case Study:
Medical College of Wisconsin


Medical college of wisconsin

Jeffrey Comins, Psy.D., The Collabrium

David L. Larson, M.D., Professor Emeritus Department of Plastic Surgery

Pam Dixon, Ph.D., Menttium Corporation

Lynn Sontag, MBA, Menttium Corporation



  • Mentoring is integral to the development of academic physicians, who are now facing a complex and fast changing healthcare delivery system.
  • Academic physicians are increasingly asked to do team building, networking, negotiating across boundaries, and strategic thinking. Cost-effective physician leadership development is critical as baby boomer leaders are moving towards retirement.
  • Business has been effectively utilizing mentoring as a powerful tool in leadership development.


  • Seven academic physicians at the Medical College of Wisconsin were selected by their department chairs and then systematically matched with business leaders in the community based on the development needs of the mentees and skills of the mentors.
  • Following a half-day kickoff, the mentor-mentee dyad met for at least two hours per month for a full year. Together they constructed a mentoring plan for the mentee based on four domains:
    • Collegial Relationships
    • Organizational Leadership
    • Systems Thinking
    • Personal Leadership
  • Dyads were contacted at months 2, 6, 9, and 11 to evaluate their progress and to assist with any issues that may have arisen in the partnership.


The mentees, mentors, and department chairs rated the mentees on impact of mentoring on the four domains. As rated by mentees, and with the exception of Systemic Thinking, all domains were significantly enhanced as a result of the mentoring program.


This prospective study on formal mentoring of medical school faculty demonstrated that a yearlong formal leadership mentoring program is an effective (p<.05) model for enhancing personal and organizational leadership and collegial relationships with academic physicians (mentees).


  • Mentoring is integral to the development of academic physicians (1-3).
  • Physician leaders increasingly need to manage the change and provide organizational leadership within an increasingly complex healthcare system.
  • Formal mentoring used in business for over two decades can be a model to help academic physicians develop leadership and managerial skills (4-6). It includes:
    • Systematic pairing of participants
    • Mentee and mentor training
    • Scheduled meetings
    • Specified goals
    • Specific time frame
    • Monitoring


  • Standardized methodology for its initiation and maintenance of a mentee-mentor relationship has proved elusive (7-9).
  • Business leaders from the non-medical community possess a mature knowledge and experience of leadership and management that are not inherent in many physician mentors


  • A formal mentoring program at the Medical College of Wisconsin between September 2011 and September 2012.
  • Seven faculty (six males, one female), selected by their chairs, were matched with seven non-physician business and community leaders.
  • A proprietary web-based survey was given to both mentees and a pool of potential mentors. The survey included 49 indicators from the O*Net data base under four sets of capabilities: Personal Leadership, Organizational Leadership, Collegial Relationships, and Systems Thinking (10).
  • Mentees and mentors were matched based on the development needs of the mentee and the skills of the mentor.
  • At a half-day orientation mentees and mentors were trained in their respective roles and met for the first time.
  • Pairs established two to four mentoring goals and met for a minimum of two hours a month for twelve months.
  • Participants were called at 2-months and a web-based survey instrument was used to collect data at months 6, 9, 11, and 12.
  • At the end of the program, participants were asked to rate on a Likert-type scale the mentees’ level of ability BEFORE participating in the program as well as the level of ability on the same scale AFTER participating in the program.
  • A final half-day session provided opportunities to recognize partnerships, quantify program benefits, promote lessons learned, and celebrate accomplishments.


All seven mentees completed the 12 month program

Table 1: Comparison of the perception of Mentees’ skill in each domain BEFORE and AFTER the mentoring program

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Table 2: Respondents’ perception of Mentee’s skills in each domain pre- and post-mentoring program

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Table 3: Perceived Mentee change for each domain by Mentee and Department Chair as a result of mentoring

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  • 86% of the mentees reported that mentoring provided moderate or substantial help in enhancing their leadership capabilities; all of the mentees reported that mentoring helped in their relationships with colleagues.
  • Mentoring was not very effective in enhancing mentees’ relationship with their chair.
  • The implementation of the mentoring effort was greatly aided by the proactive involvement of a credible champion within the institution.
  • This study is limited by the small sample size, nevertheless the results suggest that a structured and formalized mentoring program that focuses on leadership can enhance the personal and professional development of academic physicians.


1. Jackson VA, Palepu A, Szalacha L, Caswell C, Carr PL, Inui T. “Having the right chemistry”: a qualitative study of mentoring in academic medicine. Acad Med 2003;78:328-334.
2.SambunjakD,StrausSE,MarusicA. Asystematicreviewofqualitativeresearchonthemeaningandcharacteristicsofmentoringinacademic medicine. J Gen Intern Med 2009; 25:72-78.
3.RustgiAK,HechtGA. Mentorshipinacademicmedicine. Gastroenterology2011;141:789-792.
4. Wanberg, C. R., Kammeyer-Mueller, J., & Marchese, J. Mentor and protégé predictors -and outcomes of mentoring in a formal mentoring program. Journal of Vocational Behavior 2006; 69:410-423.
5. Chun, J. U., Sosik, J. J., & Yun, N. Y. A longitudinal study of mentor and protégé outcomes in formal mentoring relationships. Journal of Organizational Behavior2012; 33:1071-1094.
6. Tracy EA, Jagsi R, Starr R, Tarbell NJ. Outcomes of a pilot faculty mentoring program. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (2004) 191, 1846e50
7. Morzinski JA, Diehr S, Bower DJ, Simpson DE. A descriptive, cross-sectional study of formal mentoring for faculty. Fam Med 1996;28:434-8.
8. Duda RB. Mentorship in academic medicine: a critical component for all faculty and academic advancement. Current Surgery 2004;3:325-327.
9. Benson CA, Morahan PS, Sachdeva AK, Richman RC. Effective faculty preceptoring and mentoring during reorganization of an academic medical center. MedicalTeacher2002;24:550-557.
10. O*NET Online. Links: Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Work Activities