​The Academic Medicine Research Institute (AMRI) provides clinicians with opportunities to develop their research skills and a strong support system to do so.   One of them is through mentorship. Professor Ecosse Lamoureux, Deputy Head, AMRI, answers questions about how AMRI can help researchers at every stage of their career through mentorship.

“The magnitude of what a mentee needs varies depending on experience and level of grant application.”
Prof Ecosse Lamoureux, Deputy Head, AMRI

Who is a right mentor for a researcher?
There are three types of mentors that a researcher who is just starting out needs: A clinical mentor is an experienced clinician who can provide better understanding of the disease being studied and provides links to other clinicians in the department and elsewhere to help with study enrolment. AMRI works with Academic Clinical Programs (ACPs) to link up the researcher with the clinical mentor. A clinical mentor is always a good clinician, but not always a scientist because he or she may not have been trained as a researcher. 

The mentee thus needs to seek a scientific mentor – usually a well-respected Principal Investigator who is experienced in paper publications, grant writing, mentoring fellows and has a good funding record. Someone who has been there, done that. AMRI has a pool of scientific mentors. A scientific mentor may not specialise in the disease being studied but helps craft a good grant proposal by fine-tuning the hypothesis, questions, methodology and its other elements. In short, grantsmanship. It is what makes a grant much more competitive. 

Every researcher also needs a quantitative mentor. This is an experienced biostatistician who advises on the numbers, data analysis and statistical models to use for the research study. 

Some of these mentors become long-term mentors who the young researcher looks up to for advice in his research area throughout his career progression. This is the best form of mentorship.

Who can find mentors through AMRI?
Anyone who does clinically relevant research and would like to eventually apply for a national grant can find mentors through AMRI – residents, clinicians, scientists, nurses, AHPs. The magnitude of what a mentee needs varies depending on experience and level of grant application, but we help people at every stage of their research journey. 

Someone with more research experience, say, a Clinician Scientist, may only need a quantitative mentor. I asked Prof Wong Tien Yin (Group Director, Research) to help me with my grant proposals!

What is the process like?
The typical journey starts when a young researcher approaches us to provide feedback on a research idea.   AMRI then works with the ACPs to find mentors and ensure that the researcher has protected time for research.   We will then facilitate discussions between the researcher and his/her mentor to generate a clear objective of the research project.   This will then be presented at AMRI’s Research Round for feedback from more people. Then the process of developing the grant proposal starts. 

The researcher may also consider joining a structured mentored program called the Khoo Scholar program, which includes e-learning and linking each scholar with a scientific, quantitative and clinical mentor. The mentors guide researchers over several months through the project implementation phase where needed, until the grant application is submitted.

What is your best advice for those starting on a research project?
Seek a mentor – someone who can set the bar higher, provide a different perspective and inspire you to go to a higher level.   You can be hardworking, have good ideas and passionate but if you want to succeed, you need to look for a good mentor early.

To find out more about how AMRI can help you with your research, email us at amri_info@duke-nus.edu.sg