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Excellence in Career Mentoring Award highlights value of outstanding mentors

The Penn State College of Medicine values the contributions mentors make to enhance and develop the careers of our faculty, students and trainees. The Penn State COM Excellence in Career Mentoring Award was our established in order to recognize the contributions of outstanding mentors in the college.

These awards acknowledge the exceptional effort of faculty who enable and empower students, residents and trainees, junior faculty and peers on their path to achieve their full potential.

The Office of Faculty and Professional Development and the Career Mentoring Awards Review Committee was overwhelmed with nominations of committed mentors from across the College of Medicine. The office and committee would like congratulate and acknowledge the significant contributions of all nominees.

The 2022 Excellence in Career Mentoring Awards are presented to the following individuals:

2022 Clinical Science Master Mentor – Full Professor
Dr. James G. Waxmonsky, professor of psychiatry and behavioral health

Waxmonsky was nominated by Drs. Raman Baweja, Erika F.H. Saunders and David L. Kaye. He is professor of psychiatry and oversees faculty recruitment for the Division of Child Psychiatry, which has grown under his tenure. As his chair notes, “Dr. Waxmonsky begins mentoring from the very first interaction with faculty recruits – and I have heard him say many times in interviews that if you are doing the exact same thing 5 years after you join the department, the department has failed because academic medicine is defined by growth. That statement embodies his approach to mentoring and development… [Mentoring is] not something he turns on when it is called for. It is who he is and how he approaches every experience he has with others whether they are a designated mentee or not.” A mentee noted that, “Dr. Waxmonsky provided mentorship for my professional development in research, patient care, education and community outreach.” He was noted to be focused on both expanding his mentees strengths and challenging their limitations. According to his nomination materials, “Mentoring is often viewed as one of those extra tasks that faculty ‘have to do.’ For Jim, it’s a part of who he is.”

2022 Basic Science Master Mentor – Full Professor
James R. Connor, distinguished professor and vice chair of neurosurgery

Connor was nominated by Ganesh Shenoy, Dr. Kevin Cockroft and Vladimir Khristov. Connor is an internationally respected neuroscientist, and his mentees note that he always takes the time to make connections between his mentees and senior faculty throughout the field, “This has led to fruitful collaborations and access to unique opportunities for me as a trainee.” His nominators spoke to the diversity of his mentees. Connor demonstrates a facility for mentoring all types of learners, from “post-doctoral fellows in the laboratory, to the young research faculty in the Department of Neurosurgery, to the neurosurgery residents in regard to their research aspirations and to the neurosurgery clinical faculty. He is an extraordinary neuroscientist who always has time to foster the careers of those around him.” Another nominator reflects, “Dr. Connor’s promotion of student independence makes up the foundation of his mentorship style. As soon as students set foot in the lab, they are required to develop an independent research proposal – linked to the overall mission of the lab but unique to each student’s scientific and professional goals…Dr Connor emphasized the importance of not only developing an independent research goal, but also wanting to make sure that the student is excited about the work and takes ownership of the work.”

2022 Clinical Science Associate Professor Mentor
Dr. Seth Pantanelli, associate professor of ophthalmology

Pantanelli was nominated by Drs. Joseph Sassani, David Quillen and Mona Camacci. Pantanelli is described a generous and productive mentor. He has been able to translate his clinical passion into a robust academic program, into which he has seamlessly incorporated mentoring. Working in a busy clinical practice, “he has been highly effective in engaging and supporting medical students and residents in ophthalmology research. Nearly all of his research presentations and publications involve meaningful contributions from our trainees.” Pantanelli’s mentoring efforts are credited with helping many medical students and residents publish their work and secure competitive ophthalmology residency and fellowship positions. Another nominator notes, “Dr. Pantanelli is constantly aiming to enhance the educational experience of every ophthalmology resident both from structural academic changes to individual mentorship.” He is described as extremely generous of his time, focusing on excellence, challenging thinking, all while being both kind and patient. One nominator notes the importance of informal mentoring and teaching, “At the end of each clinic day, it is common practice for a group of residents to be huddled around his office to hear him discuss the cases that were seen throughout the day. These informal sessions had been the most important learning moments during [training.]” Pantanelli was widely noted to be an excellent mentor for “countless trainees” who learn “how to ask important and thoughtful scholarship questions.”

2022 Basic Science Associate Professor Mentor
Chan Shen, associate professor of surgery and public health sciences

Shen was nominated by Li Wang, Dr. Donald R. Mackay, Dr. Jorge Benavides-Vasquez, Dr. Rolfy A. Perez Holguin, Dr. Kelly Stahl, Dr. William Wong, Usha Sambamoorthi and Xingran Weng. Shen was widely recognized for having both a large number of mentees, a diverse group of mentees, and mentees who are remarkably productive. According to a nominator, Shen “has exemplified great mentorship in providing her mentees the skills and resources needed for their successes,” providing “tailored guidance and help” to fit the varying needs of her mentees. Shen is described as a knowledgeable, dedicated and caring mentor, who is open and accessible, and is committed to professional development and individual needs. Shen is credited with helping mentees produce a large number of publications and presentations, which in turn has helped them secure competitive future training and employment. Mentees credit Shen with giving them the skills “to take more initiatives in problem-solving and critical thinking, and fostering their love for research. She makes sure that her mentees explore and choose their own topics of interest, and “connects mentees with the resources necessary to take full advantage of academic and professional opportunities.”

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Past Awardees

Past recipients of the Excellence in Career Mentoring Award are listed here. Click the + next to recent awardees to read statements by those who nominated them.

Excellence in Career Mentoring Award Details

Eligibility Expand answer

Nominations for the Faculty Excellence in Mentoring Award are open to faculty who meet the following criteria:

  • Faculty must have held an appointment at Penn State College of Medicine for a minimum of three years, hold the rank of associate professor or professor, and be in good standing at the College of Medicine.
  • Tenured, tenure-track or fixed-term faculty are eligible.
  • Faculty who hold titles at the level of dean, vice dean, associate dean or chair are generally ineligible. Exceptions to this (i.e., recent appointments) will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Faculty in any leadership position must demonstrate mentorship excellence outside the usual functions of their job titles.
  • This award can only be received once within a five-year period by an individual faculty member.
  • Faculty should have mentored individuals at multiple levels.
  • Basic scientists may have their primary appointment in a clinical science department. Individuals must self-identify whether they wish to be considered for the award as a basic or clinical scientist.
  • Mentors must be nominated as an individual.
Characteristics of Awardees Expand answer

A successful candidate for the mentorship award at the College of Medicine will demonstrate one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Ability to create a supportive environment for mentees’ development in at least one of the institutional mission areas.
  • Commitment to mentorship and a track record of successful mentees.
  • Evidence of mentorship skills that help mentees achieve advancement and/or promotion (for example, presentations, writing manuscripts, preparing grant applications.)
  • Advocacy to help mentees navigate organizational and systems issues.
  • Support of leadership development in mentees.
  • Care for the personal and professional development of mentees.

If a candidate has scholarship in the area of mentorship, this should be addressed in the nomination letter.

Nomination/Application Process Expand answer

Application Requirements

The following items must be included with the nominee’s application:

  • Three formal nomination letters (no more than two single-spaced pages each) are required as follows, with at least one coming from someone currently employed by Penn State College of Medicine or Penn State Health.
    • At least one letter must be from a current or prior mentee at Penn State College of Medicine or Penn State Health.
    • At least one letter must be from a chair (or other senior designee who has the ability to comment on the applicant’s success in mentoring).
    • A third nomination letter should be submitted from any person qualified to evaluate the mentorship capabilities of the candidate.
  • Nominee’s current CV highlighting mentorship achievements, including publications or presentations with mentees, scholarship about mentorship, etc.
  • A mentee table (list of current and prior mentees, current positions of mentees and mentee accomplishments; see example below). The table should illustrate a representative sample of up to 10 mentees upon whose career the nominee has had the most impact, over the past five to 10 years.
  • A 500- to 600-word statement by the nominee describing their philosophy of mentoring and examples of how mentoring has impacted their career and that of their mentees.

Submission information will be posted when nominations are being accepted.

Sample Mentee Table

Nominations Review Committee Expand answer

Nominations will be reviewed by a committee. Current committee members are:

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