Dr. Dawn Bowers
Department of Clinical and Health Psychology
2015-2016 UF Doctoral Mentoring Award Winner
My path as a mentor is different from that of many university professors. My initial 18 years as a faculty member were in the Department of Neurology where I mentored a yearly stream of post-doctoral fellows, residents, and medical students who rotated through the Behavioral Neurology/ Neuropsychology Service in the College of Medicine. It was not until I moved my academic home to the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology within the College of Public Health and Health Professions that I formally began the process of mentoring doctoral students.
In thinking back over my mentoring experiences, first in Neurology and now in Clinical and Health Psychology, several principles have guided my mentoring style. First, it is imperative to “love” what one does, to have passion. Indeed, the excitement and contagion of my own mentors is one I strive to model for my students. In doing so, I attempt to provide a personally supportive environment that fosters intellectual excitement and a “can do” approach. Initially, I provide a “menu” of research opportunities for an entering student, with the goal of progressive independence by the time that the student graduates. At the same time, I encourage research beyond that required for the formal masters and doctoral dissertation, and attempt to impress the dictum of having multiple ongoing projects – those that can be completed rather quickly and others that are more prospective, enduring and thereby require perseverance, more time to completion – perhaps even a lifetime. Second, I attempt to instill a sense that one is part of a community of scholars, not only locally but globally. This is done in several ways. I expect my students to present research at national and international conferences throughout the world, and support them in this endeavor to the extent that my grant funding allows. They participate as junior reviewers of manuscripts which enables them to be “on the other side” of the review process and thus appreciate the responsibility that this activity entails. Importantly, I model multidisciplinary collaboration with colleagues across different disciplines throughout the University and Health Science Center and this approach enables the student to value the richness of team science. Third, I encourage teaching, community service, and the mentoring of younger students. By speaking at various community support groups, students learn how to communicate their ideas and their research in non-jargon language so that the public – typically the peers of their parents or grandparents – can understand. In my mind, communication of ideas to non-academics is a critical skill the successful academic must develop. Finally, one of my most critical roles as a mentor is to challenge them to be curious, to question, to develop hypotheses, and to be undaunted in their quest to develop tools for satisfy their scientific curiosity.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to have a wonderful cadre of students who have been highly successful, each in their own way. Collectively, they have accumulated an impressive array of international, national, and local awards for their productivity, ranching from NIH research awards (R01, KR00, K23, F32) to recognition from national and international organizations for their scholarly and clinical contributions (i.e., APA Division 20 Early Career Contribution, United Kingdom TBI Clinician Award, Meier-Benton Neuropsychology Award, McMillen Award). I have been been a “partner in learning” with these very talented young people and am forever grateful for what they have taught me.