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The Community Mentorship Network

The goal of the Community Mentorship Network is to leverage experiences and expertise across institutions in our community of women in global health research. For example, a faculty member with a primary research mentor who is male may want to reach out to other women for advice on breastfeeding in the field. A female investigator may need guidance on leading a team that includes older male colleagues in a country in which most leadership roles are assumed by men. . Someone with prior experience may be able to provide targeted guidance on a specific topic. If you are interested in participating, you may serve as both a mentor and a mentee. 

Over 30 women, with a broad range of experience, are participating in this network. If you would like to join our mentorship network, email womenglobalhealth@med.cornell.edu. You can send your questions to womenglobalhealth@med.cornell.edu, and we will get back to you shortly with 2-3 responses from members of our Community Mentorship Network. 

 

Sample Mentorship Q&A: 

Question 1: When you are broached by a student interested in a post-doc (etc.) what do you look for (either in their qualifications, personality, materials they communicate with, whatever)?

Response 1:
When I think about mentoring a student or post-doc at my global health site, I look for a number of qualities. If they have never gone abroad before, I tend to be much more apprehensive about sending them, because I worry, especially for a short term experience, if they are going to have adequate time to adjust to their situation and be able to contribute meaningfully. For the same reason, I look for someone who shows evidence of independent thinking and resourcefulness based on their past experience, since they will need to work and solve problems even when I am not there (and in a different time zone). I also look for someone who is attentive to detail. If their CV has typos in it, that is a red flag for me in terms of how much I can trust the person to operate without constant oversight. I consider the person an extension of my research program, especially if I am not going to be there supervising at all time...would I be happy to have this person as my “ambassador”? Are they confident enough to introduce themselves to others and ask questions, but also humble enough to avoid coming off as a “know it all”?

Response 2:
-Evidence of past success and diligence. My mentors have taught me that one of the best predictors of future success is past success. Has he or she shown in the past the ability to persevere and succeed?

-Precision. If there are spelling or formatting mistakes in the person's introductory email, it raises serious doubts for me about whether she or he will be careful and precise with science.

-Evidence of flexibility-- essential, particularly in global health work in which things change and are unpredictable more often than not! If it is hard to tell, I ask a few hypothetical questions to try to get a sense of how they would handle the normal challenges of global health work.

Response 3:
-Well organized materials

-Evidence of productivity

-Clear thinker and communicator

Question 2: I am expecting my first child soon and am planning on traveling with her to Africa (Cape Town) when she's about 3 months old. Any tips for how to prepare for this? Specifically, is it a good idea to try and fly a shorter trip with her before the long trip to Africa to see how she does? Any recommendations for travel-friendly breast pumps or how to manage a baby on a 20 hour flight? Is it important to get some of her vaccinations early or should I rely on antibodies absorbed via breastmilk? Any and all tipcs welcome! 

Response 1:
Would not do a shorter flight - it's take off and landing that are hard on kids. Kids tend to make a lot of dirty diapers on airplanes and make sure you bring extra. Would breastfeed a lot on the flight. There is an outlet in the bathroom where one can pump with the same pump you use at home. You can also request help from the attendants to warm bottles if you have stored milk or formula. There are infant cots available on airplanes, usually in the bulkhead seats, if you register in advance. These can be a lifesaver, otherwise you'll have to hold the baby the whole time, which makes eating and going to the bathroom difficult (even in a baby bjorn).

You can get some vaccines early, but MMR can't be given until 9 months at the earliest. By the time she's 3 months old she will have had a first round of pneumococcal, rotavirus, HIB and DPT which are probably the most important ones. I don't think BCG is available in the US. If it were me, I would not bother with it.

Many people with kids this young who are flying do travel with a companion since it's very exhausting to manage a baby for the whole time. The airports in Europe usually have good infant facilities (Amsterdam has cribs for sleeping) and you can get a "day room" in a hotel to rest between flights even for only 4 hours. If you do travel alone make sure that you have some help arranged when you arrive (totally exhausted) and need to rest at your destination. you'll need someone to help you, you'll need to "recover" from the trip and rest, especially if you plan on functioning outside a child care role upon your arrival.

Have to apply for passport as soon as infant is born for it to arrive in time - you can't apply before birth. Sometimes you need a passport to buy the ticket.... you need to have infant's eyes open in the passport photo. You have to buy a ticket for an infant for an international flight although it is heavily discounted. You will have to bring your own carseat as they are not routinely available in taxis in Africa.

Response 2
I travelled with my baby 4 month old baby to Durban. I didn't do an experimental plane flight in advance, but it all went fine. I was breast feeding, which I think made the experience easier. I brought my Medela breast pump with me and pumped at work, which worked out fine. I didn't get shots in advance - the private pediatricians in South Africa are a lot like pediatricians here and they gave her the combination shot when I asked for it on the US schedule. I actually found traveling with a small, not yet mobile baby, pleasant and fun and we had no problems!

 

 

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