His integrity has provided valuable lessons around ethics, service and rigor as a scientist. Dr. Shaibi meets with me on an individual basis to provide weekly mentorship. He meets with our research team weekly to review data, provide feedback on projects, and teach on topics such as the NIH grant submission process.
I am confident that I will be prepared for the job market because of the time and attention that he gives to mentoring me. Whether it’s working with IRB, analyzing data, or grant writing, Dr. Shaibi has pushed me to be a better scientist.”
– Erica Soltero, Postdoctoral scholar
Since joining the faculty ranks, my approach to mentoring has focused on developing action-oriented critical thinkers who appreciate the value of rigorous academic research that has real-world impact. My research program is centered around the cross-cutting theme of obesity-related health disparities.
As such, I work with a transdisciplinary team that includes researchers, clinicians and community partners. Within this context, I have had the privilege of mentoring individuals from multiple disciplines, at various levels of education, across institutions, who come from diverse cultural backgrounds. This diversity has supported a tremendous fusion of ideas and approaches for tackling such a complex problem, and the inclusive nature of our team has enhanced our collective capacity to advance the science, train the next generation, and improve the health of vulnerable and underserved populations in our local community.
Mentoring Philosophy and Approach
Mentoring is one of my most important and fulfilling roles as a faculty member, and I see mentorship as an additional opportunity to improve health equity. Therefore, I take a pipeline approach with an emphasis on mentoring individuals from populations that are historically underrepresented in science and who come from communities that experience disproportionate rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. The mentorship pipeline in my lab has extended from high school students to junior faculty. Regardless of where they are in the pipeline, I emphasize critical thinking, hands-on experience, appraisal of the primary literature and contributing to scientific advancement through dissemination. Although this is my general framework, the most important component of mentoring is developing an individual connection and aligning the relationship towards a trajectory of growth. Long-term goals and career aspirations of the mentee are used to guide individual learning plans, coordinate activities, develop products, and build a network for academic success and career advancement.
Over the past 12 years, I have served as the primary research mentor or chair to more than 20 undergraduate students (10 honors), three Master’s students, two medical students, four PhD students, 10 postdoctoral fellows (research and clinical) and two junior faculty. The vast majority (>85%) of individuals that I have mentored have been women and/or minorities. Collectively, this outstanding group has secured more than $750,000 in grants and scholarships and produced 23 first-authored publications in the peer-reviewed literature during their research training with me. I have also supported more than 30 abstract presentations by mentees at national meetings including the National Hispanic Science Network, the Obesity Society, American Diabetes Association and Society of Behavioral Medicine. I am currently mentoring a second-year PhD student (Armando Pena, MS) who is supported by a diversity supplement from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at National Institute of Health (NIH), a third-year Pediatric Endocrine Fellow (Amanda Campos, MD) who was competitively selected for approximately $15,000 in research support through the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Learners ResearchFund, and a postdoctoral research scholar (Erica Soltero, PhD) who is supported by a fellowship from the American Heart Association and has received a $50,000 pilot research grant through the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities.
Commitment to Career Advancement
I believe that mentorship extends well beyond the formal training period and I continue to interface with previous trainees to facilitate successful career transition and ongoing professional growth. Two of my previous PhD students (Joon Young Kim and Justin Ryder) secured NIH-funded postdoctoral fellowships upon graduation at prestigious medical schools with researchers with whom I had established relationships. Ryder has started his own lab as a tenure track-faculty member at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. The most recent PhD student to graduate from my lab (Ana Renteria-Mexia) is now a faculty member in her home country of Mexico and has secured funding to continue her work. All three former PhD students have continued on a trajectory of success and have collectively produced 36 peer-reviewed publications since graduation. The postdoctoral fellows who have completed training have all secured attending physician positions as pediatric endocrinologists in a variety of clinical settings.
Paying it Forward
Although I am incredibly proud of the grants, publications, awards and positions described above, I am most grateful to see the culture and tradition of mentorship passed on to the next generation. Soltero served as a STEP-UP mentor to an incoming freshman student from Tuba City, AZ who entered ASU with the goal of majoring in nutrition so she could improve obesity and diabetes health in her home community. STEP-UP is a NIH/NIDDK-funded program designed to engage underrepresented minority and disadvantaged students in research with the goal of increasing the number of students in the pipeline who are committed to a career in biomedical, behavioral, clinical or social science research. The student successfully presented her work to researchers at the NIH in Bethesda, MD and was accepted for an additional year of support through the program. Following suit, Ryder is serving as a “near peer” mentor to Soltero on her American Heart Association fellowship and recently returned to ASU to serve as an outside thesis reader for an honor’s student that Soltero and I are co-mentoring.
I am fortunate to have had multiple mentors throughout my career and feel honored to be able to share their wisdom with the next generation.