The Virginia Public Health Association (VPHA) Pilot Mentorship Program seeks to support public health students, early career professionals, and career switchers throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia in their growth as public health professionals. The program provides opportunities for participants to gain job-seeking and professional communication skills through live webinars, to connect with each other through online networking events, to manage stress through wellness webinars, and to interact with experienced public health professionals.


VPHA formed a volunteer committee to develop and implement the program in Fall 2022. Initially, the program was envisioned as a traditional one-to-one mentoring program; however, due to a lack of mentor volunteers, the team developed a group mentoring program focused on providing virtual professional development workshops to mentees. Information from key informants and a survey informed the workshop design and schedule. Workshops and networking events were delivered live via Zoom, which enabled the program to connect new and seasoned public health professionals across Virginia. The program met twice a month over a three-month period in Spring 2023. Evaluations were conducted after each webinar session.


The VPHA Pilot Mentorship Program was developed in Fall 2022 and conducted in Spring 2023 with 10 committee members, 4 additional volunteers, and 19 mentees. The mentees were a mix of graduate students, early career professionals, and career switchers. All planned on-line sessions were implemented. An ‘in-person’ session to end the series was moved to an online forum due to the geographical spread of participants. There was significant attrition, with only about half of the mentees attending most sessions. Attendees reported that they found the program useful and appreciated the interaction with experienced professionals.


Mentorship is an important part of professional development and career advancement in public health. Programs which introduce mentees to a wide variety of professionals are especially valuable. However, colleges, universities, and workplaces may not have the resources to develop and implement such programs. Professional associations like VPHA can fill this gap and support the public health workforce through offering group mentorship programs. The synchronous (live) online format works well for program delivery over large geographic areas.


Statewide mentorship programs can be an efficient way to support the public health workforce. Well-planned group sessions, a set schedule, and the use of online technology to provide interactive, live programming supported the successful implementation of the program in Virginia and could be modeled elsewhere. These programs can serve as viable alternatives to individualized (one-to-one) mentorship arrangements. They can also augment existing one-on-one arrangements by providing additional resources and support to mentees and mentors. The program in Virginia will continue through VPHA in the future, building on the lessons of its inaugural year.

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