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How to 'Hang in There'
Batting 300 is Good: Perspectives of Faculty Researchers and Their Mentors on Rejection, Resilience, and Persistence in Academic Medical Careers. DeCastro R et al. Academic Medicine April 2013; 88(4): 1-8.
Reviewed by Ginny Cleppe

What were the study questions?
1. How does rejection shape careers in academic medicine? 2. Why are some individuals more resilient than others?

How was this study done?
Authors gathered data from 100 NIH K award recipients and 28 of their mentors via one-hour semi-structured telephone interviews. Transcripts were reviewed and coded, using a thematic analysis approach. Of six major thematic clusters identified -- mentoring; negotiation and resources; unequal treatment, conflict and discrimination; time and balance; goals and aspirations; and rejection and persistence; -- this manuscript focuses on the last cluster: rejection and persistence.

What were the results?
Professional criticism and rejection and the associated need for resilience are pervasive in academic medicine, and mentoring and other environmental factors can promote resilience. Emotional and psychological responses to rejection can lead to adverse responses including abandonment of an academic career unless resilience and persistence are present. Female faculty may be more vulnerable to rejection especially in the setting of the competing demands of parenthood and work.

What are the implications of these findings?
Mentors can support resilience by offering moral support and encouragement, promoting positive thinking and a more adaptive mind-set, helping protégés identify a research focus that stirs their passion, and inspiring hope by modeling their own successes. Mentors can also teach financial management skills and provide access to shared funds, equipment, and resources. Female faculty are especially in need of this support.

Editor's Note: I suspect that rejection of a NIH K Award application represents just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the effects of rejection and subsequent discouragement in an academic career and that the findings and recommendations reported in this study are generalizeable to other academic endeavors. The role of mentors to foster resilience in academic faculty is crucial and training mentors to foster resilience could pay huge dividends for all concerned (RR).

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