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Vol 39  No 5
Nov. 2, 2006


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The rewards of mentoring

by Sharon Gray

Dr. Daniel MacPhee is mentoring PhD candidate Pia Elustondo with the support of the Strategic Training Initiative in Research in Reproductive Health Sciences Program. (Photo by HSIMS)

For reproductive biologist Dr. Daniel MacPhee, a formalized mentorship program is proving to be of great value to his laboratory, and particularly to doctoral student Pia Elustondo.

The program, known as STIRRHS (Strategic Training Initiative in Research in Reproductive Health Sciences), is sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) in collaboration with the Association of Professors of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Canada. The objective is to create transdisciplinary training opportunities to encourage top students to develop integrated strategies to resolve complex reproductive health problems.
Dr. MacPhee heard about the STIRRHS program from Dr. Joan Crane, Obstetrics and Gynecology, and he submitted an application to become a mentor in the program. “In a way the application was a review process which looked at my research program to see if it’s a good model that could have transdisciplinary compatibility.”

Dr. Crane is also a mentor for STIRRHS, which has provided funding to cover tuition for three obstetric and gynecology residents doing their master’s in clinical epidemiology. “It is an excellent source of support, both financially and program-wise,” she said.

Dr. MacPhee was appointed a STIRRHS mentor two years ago. As a result, students in his laboratory were eligible to apply for a STIRRS fellowship. Doctoral candidate Pia Elustondo applied and was successful in being granted a four-year fellowship.

“The fellowship is split between STIRRHS and the university and in this way it financially helps the university and the researcher,” said Dr. MacPhee. “It is a rewarding fellowship for a productive student and in Pia’s case she is building a foundation for a second graduate student to do work related to the same particular protein she is studying.”

Dr. MacPhee said the STIRRS mentorship is personally rewarding to him. “Teaching in the laboratory at the bench on a day-to-day basis, a person-to person basis, is extremely important in a graduate program.”

As a reproductive biologist, Dr. MacPhee and his students ask basic science questions but they are working with human tissue. “We are looking at placental development and it’s not a big stretch to see how that has implications for clinical work.”

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