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Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 00(00), 2018, pp. 1–6
Copyright © 2018 by The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Strengthening Mentoring in Low- and Middle-Income Countries to Advance Global Health
Research: An Overview
Andres G. Lescano,
*†Craig R. Cohen,
Patricia J. Garcia,
Joseph R. Zunt,
Davidson H. Hamer,
Douglas C. Heimburger,
Benjamin H. Chi,
Albert I. Ko,
and Elizabeth A. Bukusi
Emerge, Emerging Diseases and Climate Change Research Unit, School of Public Health and Administration, Universidad Peruana Cayetano
Heredia, Lima, Peru;
University of California Global Health Institute, San Francisco, California;
St. John’s Research Institute, Bangalore, India;
Centre for Health Policy and Research Chair, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa;
Epidemiology, Sexually-Transmitted Infections and Human Immunodeﬁciency Virus Unit, School of Public Health and Administration,
Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru;
Departments of Neurology, Global Health, Epidemiology and Medicine (Infectious Diseases),
University of Washington, Seattle, Washington;
Department of Global Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts;
Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, Nashville, Tennessee;
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina;
Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut;
Instituto Gonçalo Moniz, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz,
Research Care Training Program, Center for Microbiology Research, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya
Abstract. Mentoring is a proven path to scientiﬁc progress, but it is not a common practice in low- and middle-income
countries (LMICs). Existing mentoring approaches and guidelines are geared toward high-income country settings,
without considering in detail the differences in resources, culture, and structure of research systems of LMICs. To address
this gap, we conducted ﬁve Mentoring-the-Mentor workshops in Africa, South America, and Asia, which aimed at
strengthening the capacity for evidence-based, LMIC-speciﬁc institutional mentoring programs globally. The outcomes
of the workshops and two follow-up working meetings are presented in this special edition of the American Journal of
Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Seven articles offer recommendations on how to tailor mentoring to the context and
culture of LMICs, and provide guidance on how to implement mentoring programs. This introductory article provides both
a prelude and executive summary to the seven articles, describing the motivation, cultural context and relevant back-
ground, and presenting key ﬁndings, conclusions, and recommendations.
THE SETTING: MENTORING IN LOW- AND MIDDLE-
INCOME COUNTRIES (LMICs) AND EXISTING GAPS
Mentorship is the professional relationship by which the
mentor, “an experienced and highly regarded, emphatic per-
son,”guides a more junior colleague, the mentee, in developing
and reassessing his/her ideas, learning and development,
substantially furthershis/her personal and professional growth.
Mentorship is recognized as a deeply rooted tradition in ac-
and a proven path to the development of future
generations of scientists. Historically, investing in the suc-
cess of others has been an expected responsibility, although
even accomplished scientists in high-income countries were
typically not formally trained as mentors. Mentorship was
performed somewhat intuitively and unofﬁcially, with occa-
sional reports of conﬂicts of interest and negative out-
Mentorship frameworks, tools, and programs have
only emerged in the last decades.
Regardless of potential
imperfections in its implementation, mentorship can result in
deep, continued friendships that evolve and mature over
time. In fact, some scientists consider their relationships with
mentees their most enduring contributions.
The global health revolution has accelerated the spread of
mentoring cultures and practices in LMIC through the result-
ing exchange of academic models with high-income countries
and the increasing number of LMIC students receiving ad-
vanced degrees in high-income country institutions. This has
generated a growing interest from LMIC scientists to learn and
introduce mentoring practices into their careers, universities,
and research centers.
However, formal mentoring remains an
infrequent and largely unsupported practice in LMIC institutions
conducting global health research
and perhaps this has his-
torically inhibited the growth of their scientists and research
(Table 1). Many LMIC institutions do not yet have a strong tra-
dition of mentoring,
mentoring programs are very uncommon,
very few LMIC scientists have received mentorship training, and
institutions lack the resources and capacities needed to in-
stitutionalize mentoring programs and processes.
existing evidence, best practices, and norms for successful
mentoring are not ﬁt to LMICs but instead are highly biased
toward the environments and resources of high-income coun-
where opportunities abound and a diverse array of pro-
fessionals with different backgrounds are trained, prepared,
supported, and often rewarded to serve as mentors. This is a
challenge for the implementation in LMIC settings: in a study in
South Africa, many researchers reported mentoring increased
their workload and was ﬁnancially unrewarding.
to support themselves and their research are scarce and ex-
tremely competitive, and support to invest time in mentoring
is often nonexistent. Having time for mentoring in LMICs is
often viewed as a luxury, and therefore, the development of
mentoring capacities should be coupled by institutional
commitment to the implementation of mentoring programs
and recognition of the critical contribution of mentoring ac-
tivities. In summary, the adoption of mentoring practices in
troduction but instead a complex implementation science
issue requiring adaptation of existing approaches into dif-
ferent academic settings
(Table 1), until the needed
structural change takes place.
In LMICs, roles such as tutoring, “supervisorship”and
“thesis advising”are often operative,
and very frequently
are erroneously considered and referred to as mentoring.
* Address correspondence to Andres G. Lescano, Emerge, Emerging
Diseases and Climate Change Research Unit, School of Public Health
and Administration, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima,
Peru. E-mails: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
†These authors contributed equally to this work.
However, these practices lack the foundations of mentoring,
including maintaining effective communication, aligning
mutual expectations, addressing equity and inclusion,
fostering independence, and promoting professional de-
in addition to the lack of providing career
guidance and promoting networking.Asaresult,potential
mentors and mentees are not necessarily aware of the im-
plications and beneﬁts of a mentor–mentee relationship
(Table 1). A small fraction of the scientiﬁc community
in LMICs, particularly younger, internationally trained
doctoral-level scientists who have been exposed to a nur-
turing mentorship culture, tend to be more aware and are
progressively introducing mentoring practices, often with
little or no institutional support. Wider uptake, expansion
and impact is further limited by the limited institutional
awareness of and recognition for the role and value of
mentorship and a reward system for mentors, as well as lack
of trained mentors. Clearly, the gaps to provide adequate
tensive, multidimensional, and go beyond currently avail-
able institutional resources.
Low- and middle-income countries and their regions share
many commonalities but also present substantial cultural
differences resulting from their individual characteristics and
their speciﬁc past colonial inﬂuences. The oppressive histo-
ries in many countries have contributed to research and ed-
ucation structures with authoritarian approaches,
in turn are additional obstacles for effective mentoring. Culture
distills a deeply rooted respect for hierarchy and seniority
(Table 1), which is echoed in medicine, academics, and re-
as well as strict formality in communication and di-
alog to the point that challenging the opinions of a senior
scientist or faculty can often be considered offensive or in-
The formal addressing of peers and superiors
by their titles and ranks instead of ﬁrst names continues to be
considered a sign of respect in LMICs, even in regions such as
South America where warm, close interpersonal relationships
and informal interactions are the social norm. This can rep-
resent a barrier to the development of a strong mentor–
mentee relationship, preventing the trust that can enable
Differences between high-income and LMICs relevant to tailor mentoring efforts
Issue High income LMIC Mentoring adaptation
Availability of mentors Extensive, some trained in
Scarce, limited mentoring
Phased implementation, train
the mentor, joint-mentoring
with high-income country
Group mentoring, progressive
mentoring and peer
Mentors primarily in mid-career
Culture Horizontal, challenging
mentor’s ideas is
Tends to be hierarchical,
requiring acceptance of
senior’s ideas and
discouraging critical thinking
or challenging mentor
Establishes rules to allow
Explicit support for diversity.
Promotes use of appropriate
and acceptable language
to express differences in
Relationship Friendship, long-lasting Paternalistic, dependence Promotes independence and
Institutional resources High Low Includes institutional resources
in funding proposals
Institutional support for
Limited Low or nonexistent Phased implementation via
and selected, promising
Works with institutional
champions and interested
Awareness and recognition of
Extensive, often required for
academic promotion but
seldom rewarded ﬁnancially
or with dedicated time for
Limited, not usually considered
for academic promotion
Institutional recognition and
reward of mentoring as a
key academic role, with
dedicated time for
Dissemination of concept and
process of mentoring among
faculty and students,
coupled with training
Consideration of personal
value and psychosocial
Advertise beneﬁts of mentoring
and success of mentors and
LMIC = low- and middle-income country.
* Progressive mentors are only slightly ahead of the mentee regarding experience or experience, while peermentors are in similar stages,although in both scenarios thementorship relationship is
2LESCANO, COHEN, AND OTHERS
questioning or disputing of the mentor’s position or views.
addition, the absence of such a close link may prevent the
creation of a personal bond that frequently can make men-
torship relationships last beyond speciﬁc training periods.
Verticality and formality is present in varying degrees across
continents and countries, which promotes paternalism and
limits the ability of “mentoring up,”a process through which
mentees are empowered to direct the mentoring relationship,
and thus, places equal or greater emphasis on the mentee’s
contribution to the mentoring relationship.
The scarcity of
resources and opportunities adds to this, as the success of the
mentee can be erroneously perceived by mentors as in-
creased competition and failure. Furthermore, remnants of
colonial master–servant beliefs may prevent mentors from
understanding that mentorship implies a greater shared power
between the mentor and mentee instead of the mentor alone
having all the power.
Approaches to punctuality, the importance of rules and
regulations, and the meaning of deadlines and commitments
often differ between LMICs and high-income countries and
could limit mentoring success. In addition, evaluations in
LMIC settings are often very strict and focus primarily
on “academic”performance without consideration of pro-
fessionalism, ethics/integrity, and work-life balance; topics
that are often addressed in formal mentoring programs. An-
other practice that varies across cultures is grade inﬂation.
Low- and middle-income country mentees often do not ben-
eﬁt from the widespread practice of grade inﬂation that takes
place in some high-income countries,
which can result in
less enthusiastic letters of support and recommendation from
both high-income and LMIC mentors, leading to lower chan-
ces of success and discouragement to advance in academics.
All these factors can also inﬂuence how collaboration shapes
between scientists, reduce the depth and diversity of men-
toring, and in some cases exacerbate territoriality, reducing
the chances of scientiﬁc collaboration.
Several of the issues described in these mentoring articles
are rapidly evolving and should be assessed in the speciﬁc
LMIC contexts, where mentoring will be implemented. The
age, gender, culture, beliefs, place of training, and diversity of
LMIC students, research leaders, principal investigators, and
senior scientists should also be considered. For instance, the
mean age of mentors tends to be higher and female partici-
pation more limited than in high-income countries,
larly at the highest levels of decision making. Some countries
are making important headway in this area, and research and
training support tends to prioritize younger candidates.
However, reentry opportunities for women or older scientists
with family responsibilities tend to be scarce or nonexistent,
limiting their advancement while also amplifying disparities,
reducing the mentor pool, and increasing the burden of
INSTITUTIONALIZATION OF MENTORSHIP IN LMICs
We propose the long-term goal of creating a local “identity”
of mentorship within the cohesive social fabric of LMICs and
developing models that build on local strengths, while dealing
with factors such as hierarchy and social structure. The in-
troduction and strengthening of mentorship in the speciﬁc
cultural, economic, and structural settings of LMICs should
have aims and approaches pragmatically compatible with
available resources and institutional support (Table 1). A pro-
gressive and phased implementation science approach will
require customization to the local institutional setting, pilot
programs, and eventually scale-up efforts once LMIC-speciﬁc
best practices and lessons learned are clear, and impact in-
dicators are well deﬁned. Just as in high-income settings, in-
stitutional mentoring efforts at LMICs will limited by available
resources and will take time to initiate, scale-up and become
self-sustaining. In the meantime, closely monitored and
evaluated pilot introductions in individual research groups,
departments, or academic programs at a smaller scale can
serve as proof of concept. These initial efforts, some already
underway, should produce diffusion of innovations and ex-
periences on how to best advocate for the implementation of
institutional-level mentoring programs in the future. Another
key outcome of LMIC-mentoring programs should be princi-
ples, best practices, and evidence-based guidelines for others
to replicate and expand successful efforts and models. Mid-
or senior-career scientists with extensive exposure to in-
ternational practices of mentoring should play key roles in
leading initial mentoring programs (Table 2). Efforts to train
and “mentor”the mentors will be needed and represent a key
Recommendations for the strengthening of mentoring in low- and middle-income countries
Institutions Mentors (faculty/scientists) Mentees (students)
Provide a policy framework Complete formal and informal training and
commit to improving mentoring skills
Complete research integrity training and
learn how to work effectively with
Formally recognize the value/role of
mentoring in academic and research
Introduce mentoring within research
groups and graduate/professional
Learn about mentee roles,
mentee–mentorship experiences and
choose committed mentors
Acknowledge importance of investing in
future scientists and in research-
Promote values and independence
among mentees and stimulate
scientiﬁc debate and disagreement
Be willing to listen to and engage with
Promote mentorship culture and altruism,
and research integrity
Support diversity of ideas and inclusivity,
and be willing to listen and engage with
trainees without judgment
Proactively contribute to deﬁne
expectations and goals
Acknowledge and reward the best
Promote mentees’growth into
independence, encourage work-life
Assess progress and help to improve
the experience when expectations are
Invest resources in training mentors and
compensate them for time spent
Evaluate the outcomes and impact of
MENTORING IN LMICSFOR GLOBAL HEALTH RESEARCH 3
task of the global health academic community. Table 2 pre-
sents a few key recommendations for speciﬁc stakeholders in
this endeavor. Together, these elements will eventually help to
shape the identities of mentorship in LMICs.
Low- and middle-income countries can take advantage of
unique opportunities to implement mentoring programs,
such as the earlier engagement of undergraduate students
in research compared with high-income countries and the
large cohorts of LMIC researchers returning home as po-
tential mentors after degree training in international pro-
grams. An important foundation of ongoing international
research training opportunities is described in the next
section. Developments in Peru, Uganda, and Kenya are only
a few. In addition, new treatment and prevention opportu-
nities can support mentoring of young researchers, such as
the roll out of community-based HIV pre-exposure pro-
phylaxis and the emerging focus on the non-communicable
diseases epidemic, among others. These can be excellent
vehicles for building mentorship systems.
FOGARTY-SPONSORED MENTORING WORKSHOPS
Historically, LMICs have been the focus of substantial re-
search capacity-building investments, ranging from the
Rockefeller Foundation’s International Clinical Epidemiology
to the U.S. National Institutes of Health Fogarty
International Center’s (FIC) Global Infectious Diseases
programs, Global Health Program for Fellows and Schol-
and Medical Education Partnership Initiative.
recent efforts include the Wellcome Trust’s African Institu-
and Brazil’s Science without Borders,
addition to activities supported by the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Agency for
International Development. None of these investments,
however, has speciﬁcally addressed the need for local
mentoring models or approaches in LMICs. Cole describes
a few examples of mentoring experiences and programs in
high-income and LMICs, highlighting multiple research
gaps and the need for greater evaluation and systematic
To help address these needs, the FIC Global Health Pro-
gram for Fellows and Scholar consortia members partnered to
offer ﬁve regional “Mentoring the Mentors in Global Health Re-
search”workshops at LMIC institutions. Each 2-day workshop
was led by experienced faculty fromeachregionincollaboration
with senior U.S. faculty afﬁliated with the FIC-supported con-
sortia and provided participants with the deﬁnitions, methods,
and tools to become effective mentors in LMIC settings. Work-
shops included between 19 and 37 mid- and senior-level sci-
entists primarily from universities and other global health
research institutions. The ﬁrst two workshops were conducted
back-to-back in May 2013 in Lima, Peru, for South American
training sites and in June 2013 in Mombasa, Kenya, for East
African sites. The third workshop was held in November 2014 in
Bangalore, India, for the South Asian sites and the fourth work-
shop took place in Johannesburg, South Africa, in March 2016
for southern African sites. A ﬁfth workshop was conducted for
West and Central Africa in Accra, Ghana, in May 2018. All ﬁve
workshops received positive reviews addressing a much-
needed training gap.
Given the success of the ﬁrst four workshops, in 2017 we
held a senior-level technical advisory meeting on global health
mentoring at LMIC institutions. Leaders from the ﬁrst four
workshops, along with the principal investigators of the six FIC
Global Health Program for Fellows and Scholars consortia and
staff from FIC gathered to discuss and plan how to best
support the development, sustainability, and productivity of
strong mentorship programs in global health in LMIC institu-
tions. The goal for this American Journal of Tropical Medicine
and Hygiene (AJTMH) series of articles is to help herald in a
new era of increased mentoring in LMICs that leads to ad-
vancement of global health research and practice around the
THE AJTMH LMIC MENTORING SPECIAL ISSUE
This special issue addresses the challenge of implementing
mentoring programs in LMICs and provides guidance on how
to adapt mentoring practices used in high-income countries to
the settings and cultural practices of research and academic
institutions in resource-limited settings. These publications
are directed at scientists, institutional leaders, administrators,
and trainees in LMIC institutions in collaboration with partners
in high-income countries interested in expanding mentorship
at LMIC institutions to advance global health research. The
articles can also serve as a reference guide for LMIC institu-
tions to develop strategies, approaches, and programs to
support mentorship across institutional units, including de-
partments, schools, and colleges, and to select priority men-
toring practices for implementation supported by a strong,
LMIC-speciﬁc evidence base.
The recommendations presented in the articles follow four
principles highlighting the philosophy of this special issue.
First, LMIC scientists led content development as ﬁrst or se-
nior authors, for an intended audience of LMIC scientists and
their high-income country partners in mentoring efforts, as
well as LMIC institutions in resource-limited settings. Second,
all content was developed exclusively to guide the imple-
mentation of mentoring programs and activities in LMICs and
to address LMIC-speciﬁc gaps. Third, embracing diversity is
paramount, as culture, settings, resources, and opportunities
for mentoring differ substantially across LMICs. A one-size-
ﬁts-all approach is neither viable nor desirable, and imple-
mentation will demand customization to each institution,
program, or group interested in advancing mentoring. Fourth,
a rigorous evidence- and best practices–based approach to
mentoring in LMICs is critically needed, and these articles are
only the ﬁrst step in the process. Further reﬁnement of the
proposed recommendations is warranted.
This overview piece serves both as a prelude to the seven
detailed articles, describing the overall motivation and ques-
tions and issues each paper addresses, as well as an execu-
tive summary, presenting the key ﬁndings, conclusions, and
recommendations for next steps. The seven other articles in
this special issue address speciﬁc aspects of the introduc-
tion and strengthening of mentorship practices in LMICs.
Shailendra Prasad and others
propose a conceptual
framework of mentoring tailored to LMIC settings and David
Hamer and Laetitia Rispel et al.
identify critical, technical,
and cultural competencies required for mentoring of LMIC
scientists. Monica Gandhi, Craig Cohen, and others compare
the barriers and facilitators of mentoring identiﬁed during the
LMIC mentorship workshops sponsored by the FIC Global
Health training programs that started this initiative. The
4LESCANO, COHEN, AND OTHERS
evolution of mentorship efforts after the workshops is pre-
sented via case studies by Emilia Noormahomed, Craig
Cohen et al.,
describing existing gap and mentoring needs in
various institutions in Africa, Asia, and South America. A
framework for the evaluation of mentoring programs, in-
cluding domains and metrics, is proposed by Benjamin Chi,
Tony Raj, and others,
whereas common issues related to
ethics and research integrity in LMICs are examined by
Elizabeth Bu kusi, Joseph Zunt, and ot hers
via four selected
case study scenarios. The collective knowledge of available
mentoring toolkits relevant for LMICs and related gaps is
discussed in a scoping review conducted by Bhakti Hansoti
All authors have attempted to link the contents
of each of these articles, recognizing that over time, men-
toring practice and implementation in LMICs will lead to more
cohesive and updated versions of these tools.
The advancement of global health research demands sus-
tained career development opportunities for LMIC scientists
that can only be attained via the implementation and dis-
semination of culturally compatible mentoring practices. In-
stitutional resources and local academic and cultural factors
should guide the phased implementation of tailored mentoring
activities and programs for each setting, with planned, peri-
odic evaluation of progress. Low- and middle-income country
institutions also need to support existing mentors and train
additional ones, while mentees can contribute to prevent
overburdening the few trained mentors available, by playing
an active role in the operational efforts of mentoring programs
via progressing and peer mentoring. We hope this special is-
sue will become part of the foundation of LMIC-speciﬁc
mentoring approaches around the globe.
Received July 9, 2018. Accepted for publication September 8, 2018.
Acknowledgments: The authors received support from the FIC Global
Health Program for Fellows and Scholar consortia, including the
University of California GloCal Health Fellowship (FIC D43TW009343),
the Vanderbilt-Emory-Cornell-Duke Consortium for Global Health
Fellows (D43TW009337), the UNC-Johns Hopkins-Morehouse-
Tulane Fogarty Global Health Fellowship Program (D43TW009340),
the Northern Paciﬁc Global Health Research Fellows Consortium
(D43TW009345), the Harvard-Boston University-Northwestern
University-University of New Mexico Fogarty Global Health Training
Program (D43TW010543), and Yale-Berkeley-FIU-Stanford Global
Health Equity Scholars Program (D43TW010540). A. G. L. is supported
by the grant D43 TW007393 “Peru Infectious Diseases Epidemiology
Research Training Consortium,”sponsored by the Fogarty In-
ternational Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH/FIC).
Investigator support for B. H. C. is also provided by the National In-
stitute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (K24 AI120796). We would
like to thank the assistance of Ludwing Zeta and Martha Bravo for
providing multiple references for this manuscript.
Authors’addresses: Andr es G. Lescano, School of Public He alth and
Administration, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru,
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Craig R. Cohen, Department
of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Services, University of
California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, and Department of
Global Health, University of California Global Health Institute, San
Francisco, CA, E-mail: email@example.com. Tony Raj, St. John’s
Research Institute, Bangalore, India, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laetitia Rispel, Centre for Health Policy and DST/NRF Research
Chair, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand,
Johannesburg, South Africa, E-mail: email@example.com.
Patricia J. Garcia, School of Public Health, Universidad Peruana
Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph R. Zunt, Department of Global Health, University of Wash-
ington, Seattle, WA, E-mail: email@example.com. Davidson H.
Hamer, Center for International Health and Development, De-
partment of International Health, Boston University School of Public
Health, Boston, MA, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Douglas C. Heimburger,
Institute for Global Health, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, E-mail:
email@example.com. Benjamin H. Chi, Department of
Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,
NC, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Albert I. Ko, Department of
Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases,Yale School of Public Health, New
Haven, CT, E-mail: email@example.com. Elizabeth A. Bukusi, Research
Care Training Program, Center for Microbiology Research, Kenya
MedicalResearch Institute,Nairobi, Kenya, E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the
Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted
use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original author and source are credited.
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6LESCANO, COHEN, AND OTHERS