Across healthcare, US minority populations including Latinos face disparities in risk for disease, clinical outcomes, and quality of care. The discourse related to disparity problems has often highlighted the need to increase the number of minority scientists so that the productivity of research focusing on minority populations is expanded. As a result, a group of Latino mental health researchers collaborated to develop a national network of senior mentors that participated in annual mentoring-oriented conferences. A cost-effective program was developed to stimulate the entry of new investigators into the field and provide mentoring with a focus on Latino mental health issues.
A conference-platform was used as the career stimulation strategy. Annual conferences were held (2002 – 2006) that emphasized the showcasing of new investigators' work, pairing new investigators with senior researchers, and a feedback-oriented environment. Quantitative data were used to track new investigator career progress (i.e., publications, research grants), while qualitative data were used to assess all attendees' feedback, which was provided via conference feedback questionnaires.
The feedback questionnaires revealed high levels of satisfaction with the conference, noting most highly the interactive, friendly, and nurturing conference format. Career tracking data indicated that nearly half of the new investigators participants published their work in peer-reviewed journals, and that about one-third of were successful in obtaining research funding.
These mentoring conferences appear to be an effective tool for stimulating the research careers of new investigators engaged in Latino mental health research.