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Research Letter
Physician Work Environment and Well-Being
April 2017

Differences in Mentor-Mentee Sponsorship in Male vs Female Recipients of National Institutes of Health Grants

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Surgery, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, West Roxbury, Massachusetts
  • 3Center for Cancer Biostatistics, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 4Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 5Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 6Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 7Schools of Business, Public Policy and Medicine, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
  • 8Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(4):580-582. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.9391

The term sponsorship describes advocacy on behalf of a high-potential junior person by powerful senior leaders that is critical for the career advancement of young professionals.1 Distinct from the advisory role of a mentor, sponsorship requires senior leaders to risk their reputations by using their influence to provide high-profile opportunities that their mentees would otherwise not have.2

In business, women benefit less from sponsorship than men, which may contribute to a “gender gap” in leadership.1,3 Lack of sponsorship may play a similar role in a “gender gap” among leaders in academic medicine.4 We surveyed National Institutes of Health (NIH) Mentored Career Development (K) grant awardees to determine if sponsorship differs among men and women.