The value of mentoring: Spotlight on Mark Burke, Ph.D., for NRMN SETH

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By Keith Green, M.P.H., and Kimberly Lawson, M.P.H. 

One of the more challenging aspects of realizing widespread and lasting improvements in mentorship at an institution is developing a culture that supports and values mentorship. Mentors serve to give back from a place of understanding, love, and compassion, and benefit from an important development and learning experience. 

Dr. Mark Burke
Mark Burke, Ph.D.                                                                 

The National Research Mentoring Network’s Strategic Empowerment Tailored for Health Equity Investigators (NRMN SETH) at Morehouse School of Medicine—led by Elizabeth Ofili, MD, MPH, FAAC— is celebrating Mark Burke, Ph.D., as a mentor who exemplifies these values. Burke is recognized for having been a huge asset to the development and mentoring of early-stage investigators for the past year. 

Burke has been a strong proponent of providing research and mentorship opportunities to students. Over the past nine years, he has trained more than 20 medical students, two graduate students, more than 30 undergraduates, and nine high school students. He was a key member in the development of the FYRE Program (First Year Research Experience) of the Leadership Alliance. Burke mentors students through the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Program at Howard University, the Short-Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons

(STEP-UP) program and receives high school students from Science and Technology Programs at Charles Herbert Flowers and Eleanor Roosevelt High Schools in Prince Georges County, Maryland. The research opportunities afforded to his high school and undergraduate students positioned them for competitive applications to professional schools (medical, dental and graduate) and undergraduate programs such as Howard University, University of Maryland, Hampton University and Tulane’s BS/MD program. His students have been awarded the Luard Scholarship, Fulbright Scholarship, and have been placed in summer internships at universities such as Harvard University and the University of Kentucky through the MARC Star program and Leadership Alliance Program. 

As part of his position at the The District of Columbia Center for AIDS Research (DC CFAR), Burke has actively participated in “Mentoring the Mentor” activities and is developing a formalized mentoring program that benefits faculty and students alike within the DC CFAR network. Burke has been recognized for his mentorship by the National Minority Access and Washington Baltimore Hampton Roads Louis Stokes Alliance organizations.

As an NRMN Coach since 2019, Burke has provided mentorship to two cohorts of junior faculty and early stage investigators. Burke has guided his coaching group participants through grant writing, NRMN Mock Study Section, and successful submission of their proposals.  This October, two members of his coaching group received National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health awards. 

Burke’s positive impact on his mentors calls to mind a quote from Maya Angelou: “In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care.”

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
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