FAQ’s for Mentors about the Health Professions

Education (HPE) Pathway

Characteristics of a Good Research Mentor

Guidelines for Initial Mentor Meeting

Q: What is the Pathways to Discovery program?

A: As you may already know, the Pathways to Discovery (PTD) program is a UCSF initiative to foster the pursuit of discovery, inquiry, and innovation as part of the career of health professionals trained at UCSF. The PTD program provides opportunities for in-depth education in one of five areas of inquiry that goes beyond routine professional practice. Learners acquire specific skills in an area independent of their clinical specialty. All pathways allow multiple entry points during professional education and include formal courses, guided experiential learning, and mentored scholarly projects. Learners have two options for participation, the Core Program or the Advanced Program.


Q: What is the goal of the Health Professions Education Pathway?

A: Specifically, the purpose of the Health Professions Education (HPE) PTD is to develop innovators, scholars, and leaders in the field of health professions education. Our goal is to develop 1) scholars who can translate educational theory and strategies to the health professions learning environment in their future teaching, curriculum development and leadership, and 2) investigators who can add to the current body of knowledge.


Q: Who can participate in the Health Professions Education Pathway?

A: All learners at UCSF are welcome to participate in the Health Professions Education (HPE) Pathway. This includes students, residents, and fellows from the schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, and the graduate division. However, learners must be in good academic standing and have the approval of their school, program director, and/or advisor. 


Q: What do learners do in the Health Professions Education Pathway?

A: To prepare participants for careers of innovation, leadership, and scholarship in health professions education, the Health Professions Education (HPE) Pathway learners participate in formal courses, guided experiential learning, and mentored scholarly projects. Learners will complete a number of different courses and activities depending upon their participation in either the Core Program or the Advanced Program. The curriculum of the Core Program includes:

• Two courses which combine didactic and experiential learning

- Teaching Strategies & Curriculum Development

- Learning Theories

• Teaching practicum

• Educator Portfolio development

• Works-in-Progress sessions

• Legacy Project


The curriculum of the Advanced Program includes:

• All requirements of the Core Program

• Additional courses which combine didactic and experiential learning

- Assessment

- Educational Leadership

• Attendance of seminars and journal clubs

- ESCape seminars

- Medical Education Journal Club


Q: Who should take the Core Program?

A: Most learners will take the Core Program which may be completed in one year by medical students and one to two years for residents, fellows, and other health professional students.


Q: Who should take the Advanced Program?

A: A few learners may opt to take the Advanced Program which may also be completed in one year, but will most likely require two or more years to complete. Medical students who enroll in the Advanced Program will also be enrolled in the School of Medicine’s MD with Distinction Program, be assigned a “thesis” committee, and graduate with an MD with Distinction in the HPE Pathway. The curricular work completed in the Advanced Program may be transferred to UC Berkeley to count towards the Master’s Degree in Education. The project of an MD with Distinction student is expected to be more robust in scope, depth, and innovation (requiring up to a year to complete) than the typical project of a student in the Core Program. MD with Distinction projects must be written up, submitted, and approved by the student’s thesis committee for successful completion of the program and awarding of the MD with Distinction.


Q: What is a Legacy Project?

A: All learners must complete a Legacy Project with a Health Professions Education Pathway approved mentor. Because these projects are designed to allow learners to develop additional skills, previously completed projects (such as Curriculum Ambassador projects) may not be used to meet the Legacy Project requirement. However, the Legacy Project may certainly be an extension or next phase of a previously completed project. These projects must have a foundation drawn from the educational or health professions education literature. The scope of the project is variable depending upon the learner’s level of time commitment (minimum 3 months) and prior experience in the chosen domain.


Q: What is a Thesis Committee?

A: If a student’s MD with Distinction Legacy Project proposal is approved, the HPE Pathway will appoint a three-member thesis committee for the individual student; this committee is charged with overseeing the thesis effort and providing help and guidance during the scholarly project and writing of the final scholarly project written product/thesis. The thesis committee will include the student’s project mentor, an HPE Pathway faculty member, and another faculty member with specific content, education, or methodological expertise. The student and his/her mentor may make suggestions for individuals to serve on the thesis committee.


Q: What types of Legacy Projects have prior HPE learners done?

A: Projects vary in scope and domain based on both the learners’ and mentors’ areas of interest. Many types of health professions education projects are acceptable, including formal needs assessments, curriculum development, curriculum evaluation or educational research. A list of all prior projects is available upon request.   


Q: What are the evening Works-in-Progress seminars?

A: The Works-in-Progress (WIP) sessions are designed to assist Health Professions Education (HPE) learners advance their Legacy Projects. Additionally, sessions address specific, relevant topics (applying for funding, IRB approval, project dissemination, etc.) but also allow group problem solving. Learners will be assigned to present their projects on specific dates and update the group periodically on their projects. During away or busy clinical rotations, learners are expected to submit updates via email. All learners must attend 3 WIPs per academic year and present at least 2 per year. Finally, WIPs are also opportunities to build community by meeting with the HPE Faculty and other HPE learners face-to-face.  


Q: I am interested in becoming an Health Professions Education (HPE) Pathway mentor, but I do not have a lot of expertise in education. Can I still mentor an HPE learner?

A: Yes. The HPE Faculty review all project proposals and are available to consult on projects and help troubleshoot. In most instances, the HPE Pathway will recommend the addition of a co-mentor to your project team, one with relevant education expertise. The identified co-mentor may be a member of the HPE Faculty, the School of Medicine Office of Medical Education (OME), Academy of Medical Educators, or other education faculty.


Q: How do I become a Health Professions Education (HPE) Pathway mentor?

A: If you have a project in mind and would like to work with an HPE Pathway learner, please contact Nico Henderson ( for a mentor application form. The brief application form will allow you to indicate your mentoring experience, review mentor responsibilities, and describe any educational projects you may have in mind. 


Q: What are my responsibilities as a Health Professions Education (HPE) Pathway mentor?

A: As an HPE Pathway mentor, you will be taking primary oversight responsibility for the HPE Pathway learner’s Legacy Project. You both support the learner in his/her project work and help ensure the successful completion of the project. Specific mentor responsibilities include the following:

  • Supervising the learner to meet project goals as outlined in the project proposal form
  • Helping the learner design a project appropriate to his/her level of experience
  • Providing learners with a supportive learning environment
  • Meeting with the learner at least quarterly
  • Working with the learner on all proposals, funding and CHR applications
  • Discussing with the learner conditions and expectations for authorship, including order, of products and/or publications
  • Reviewing abstract and poster submissions, and manuscripts prior to submission and presentation
  • Maintaining communication with the HPE faculty
  • Completing learner performance evaluation forms at the end of the project as well as for any independent study time taken by the learner


Q: Who are the Health Professions Education (HPE) Pathway Leaders and what are their areas of expertise?

A: Maria Wamsley, MD (HPE Director) is a Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Department of Medicine.  Additionally, she is a Co-Director for the Longitudinal Clinical Experience, a required course for third-year medical students, and the Co-Director of the PISCES longitudinal integrated clerkship.  Her interests include curriculum development, specifically for medical students in the ambulatory setting, faculty development and interprofessional education.

Patricia O’Sullivan, PhD (HPE Co-Director) is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medicine.  Additionally, she directs the School of Medicine Office of Research and Development in Medical Education (RADME). Her work has been in assessment and faculty development. She has a strong background in psychometrics. 

Kristie White, MD (HPE Co-Director). 


Q: What resources do you have to help me mentor appropriately?

A: We are fortunate at UCSF that the campus has developed a number of resources for mentors through the CTSI and the UCSF mentoring program: Additionally, the HPE faculty are happy to assist with any troubleshooting and/or planning with specific HPE pathway learners as needed.


Q: Will I be evaluated as a mentor?

A: Yes. All learners will submit an evaluation of their mentors at the completion of the pathways program. At the time of the evaluation, learners will also have an opportunity to nominate their mentor for the Pathways Mentor Award, which is presented annually at the Pathways Symposium. You will be able to incorporate data from your evaluations and any mentoring awards into your advancement file. In addition, a letter of appreciation for your mentoring efforts will be sent to your department chair.


Q: When do the learners work on their Projects?

A: Once his/her Legacy Project has been approved by the HPE Faculty, a learner may begin work on their projects according to the agreed upon timeline established by the learner and his/her mentor. Most learners begin work on their projects in the Fall of the year of entry into the pathway, but some may start as early as Spring or Summer. It is important that learners not begin work on their projects until they have submitted a project proposal to the HPE Pathway and received approval. Most proposals require revisions before being approved. The project proposal is submitted by the learner via an online form available on the HPE Pathway CLE page.


Q: Can learners sign up for independent study time to work on their Projects?

A: Yes. If they wish, students may sign up for independent study time to work on their approved Legacy Project and receive course units for work completed during that time. (This option is not available for residents and fellows, and those wishing to block off project time on their schedules should speak with the HPE Faculty and their respective training programs.) Independent study time is requested in 2 week blocks and students may take up to 12 weeks total. The 2 week blocks may be requested in a continuous series to create large blocks of project time (e.g. 4 or 8 weeks), or spread out as needed based on the project timeline (e.g. 2 weeks in December plus 4 weeks in February). Student requests for independent study time are made online via the IDS 140.20 course form and must be submitted 4 weeks prior to the start of the anticipated independent study time.


Q: How do the learners “complete” their Projects?

A: In the spring of each academic year (late April, early May), there is a “Pathways Symposium” event, in which learners from each of the five Pathways to Discovery present their Legacy Projects. Additionally, one learner from each Pathway is selected to give an oral presentation of his/her work. Submitting an abstract and a poster to the Pathways Symposium marks the formal completion of all Pathway trainees’ efforts on their Legacy Projects.


Q: Beyond the minimum requirements for the Pathway, what kinds of dissemination opportunities exist for these projects?

A: The Heath Professions Education Faculty encourage all mentors and learners to disseminate their work. Opportunities for dissemination include specialty-specific academic societies’ annual meetings (e.g. Association for Academic Psychiatry, Society of General Internal Medicine, Pediatric Academic Societies, etc.). Additionally, there are education related conferences locally (UCSF Education Day), regionally (Western Group on Educational Affairs), nationally (Association of American Medical Colleges Annual Meeting, American Education Research Association), and internationally (Ottawa Conference, Association of Medical Educators in Europe). Previous HPE Pathway mentors and learners have presented at each of these venues. There are several journals that target scholarly work in health professional education, and HPE Faculty can assist you in determining appropriateness of specific projects for various journals. Finally, there is also an online compendium of medical education resources called MedEdPORTAL, which publishes peer-reviewed curricular modules and instructional materials.


Q: I still have additional unanswered questions—what should I do now?

A: You may contact the HPE Pathway Director or any of the HPE Pathway Co-Directors. Their contact information is listed below.



Key Personnel & Contact Info




Maria Wamsley, MD




Patricia O’Sullivan, EdD



Kristie White, MD




Nico Henderson