A healthy lab is an inclusive environment in which members can communicate openly and have clear expectations and milestones for goals related to graduate work as well as professional development.
But before these aims can be achieved, the right tools must be in place. This spring, Medicine by Design’s Healthy & Inclusive Labs Committee will help the Medicine by Design community foster lab environments that support the inclusion and well-being of all members through the launch of the Individual Development Plan (IDP), and a series of educational workshops called Careers by Design: Building a Professional Development Blueprint.
“This spring’s workshops go beyond just another career development program. They are about creating the best possible culture in our labs, which is a key aim of the Healthy & Inclusive Labs Committee,” says Michael Sefton, executive director of Medicine by Design and a University Professor at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto (U of T). “Through a range of educational programming the committee wants to focus on some key themes such as diversity, inclusiveness, mental health support and career development. We want to help ensure Medicine by Design labs are environments in which all investigators and trainees can reach their full potential.”
Investigators and trainees from Medicine by Design-funded labs are invited to register for a March 29 workshop by Nana Lee, who is the director of Graduate Professional Development and assistant professor, teaching stream, in the departments of Biochemistry and Immunology. Lee will lead participants through the session, which will cover how the IDP will help trainees establish goals in research productivity and career development while using the tool for optimal mentorship.
“During the March 29 session,” says Lee, “both faculty and trainees will be receiving tips on wise practices for using the IDP towards mentee-driven mentorship, setting expectations and opening lines of communication to help create well-being in a healthy lab environment.”
After the first event, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research/scientific associates will be invited to continue in five more monthly workshops, running from April to August, that will explore topics such as ongoing communication between student and mentor; wellness, equity and inclusion; and professional goal-setting.
“Research excellence comes out of supportive environments,” says Molly Shoichet, committee chair and University Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry and the Institute of Biomedical Engineering. “Creating a lab experience that is inclusive and supportive for trainees and all lab members doesn’t happen by accident. Tools like the IDP and educational opportunities like the Careers by Design series help foster an open and ongoing dialogue between lab members and their supervisors. We hope that the IDP is adopted by every lab in the Medicine by Design community”
This workshop series is part of the programming being offered by the Healthy & Inclusive Labs Committee, which aims to create opportunities to share knowledge and best practices, as well as forums for discussion and open dialogue.
The Healthy & Inclusive Labs committee leads the educational component of Medicine by Design’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) plan.
U of T recently published a report called, Promoting a Healthy Lab Culture at the University of Toronto. The recommendations in the report are made in recognition of the fact that a healthy lab environment is central to achieving research excellence and attracting and retaining the best and brightest trainees.
“Medicine by Design’s Healthy and Inclusive Lab Committee is leading an important conversation about what it means to be an inclusive, diverse and supportive lab environment, and how a healthy lab environment seeds research excellence,” says Christine Allen, associate vice-president and vice-provost, strategic initiatives and a professor in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at U of T. “U of T is committed to inclusion and excellence because an equitable, diverse and inclusive environment enables all scholars to reach their full potential, strengthening the quality and impact of our research.”
The committee’s educational program kicked off in late 2020 with a seminar called “Bridging the racial divide in society and academia,” which featured Anita Balakrishna, Director, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, U of T, and Manu Platt, Associate Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University.
The Medicine by Design Healthy and Inclusive Labs Committee includes principal investigators, research/scientific associates, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students from across the Medicine by Design community.