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Watsonian Society - A CDC Employee Organization for Public Health Advisors

Mentor Program

For more information, contact Howard (Tim) Miner, 770.488.6256 or email

Goal of the Program

To enhance the quality and value of the Public Health Advisor (PHA)/685 series as an integral part of the public health workforce of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)

Definition of Mentor

Loyal Friend and Wise Adviser (or Advisor, in this case) Someone who can assist another person with career and job issues because of their commitment to helping others in the same way they have been helped.

Purpose of a Mentor

To provide advice and counsel to PHAs on matters pertaining to their CDC careers, including, but not limited to, the following:

Definition of a protégé

Someone seeking help with career and job issues, who asks that another person listen and offer information, contacts, and support.

Rationale and Background

The PHA/685 series has had a long, productive history at CDC. As a result of a broadening of CDC's mission and the addition or expansion of numerous programs in recent years, the range of activities and opportunities available to persons in this job series has the potential to increase significantly. However, the potential also exists for CDC programs to demand increased academic and professional credentials on the part of PHAs. Mentoring encourages PHAs to assist each other and is one way to strengthen networks to support and promote career development. The PHA mentoring program is now available on an "ad-hoc" basis. PHAs can call the Mentor Coordinator to ask for assistance with specific issues. An issue specific relationship has the potential to develop into a more involved relationship that parallels the formal employee-supervisor relationship. Information is collected by the Mentor Coordinator on how often PHAs use the program and on how well the system meets the needs of the PHA series at CDC.

Identifying a Mentor

The Mentor Coordinator maintains a list of PHAs (at the GS-12 grade level and above) that have expressed willingness to be contacted from time to time by PHAs for the purposes outlined in the section Purpose of a Mentor.

Public Health Advisors are encouraged to contact the Mentor Coordinator for referral to a mentor for specific issues. The decision whether a more formal, ongoing mentioning relationship develops from such contacts is up to the persons involved.

General Guidelines

Mentoring is defined as the practice of coaching, guiding, and teaching the success strategies of one's field or organization to others. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a framework for the Watsonian Society's mentoring activities and ensure that the opportunity exists for mentioning relationships for those who desire them. They are intended as a practical reference both for mentors and for protégés.

The components of these guidelines follow:

Possible Advantages of a Mentoring Program

For the Public Health Advisor series:

Enhances job performance and improve productivity both of mentors and of proteges

Enables every employee the possibility to contribute towards the fulfillment of the PHA role in the CDC mission

Contributes to the development of future program managers

Provides a vehicle for proteges to develop leadership skills

Helps integrate "junior" Public Health Advisors into the organization

Builds a sense of belonging for the protégé

Makes the 685 series a more attractive career to potential applicants

For the Mentor:

Sharpens the mentor's professional skills, work strategies, and tar-tics tools that have contributed to his or her success

Provides personal and professional gratification

Reinforces the mentor's self-confidence

For the protégé:

Facilitates a smooth transition into the CDC culture

Allows individuals to gain on-the-job training

Offers greater exposure and visibility, which may lead to new opportunities in the PHA career field

Provides practical input related to skill building, career development, and promotion opportunities

Enhances the protégé's self-confidence and value to the PHA series

Suggestions for Establishing and Maintaining
a Mentoring Relationship

Public Health Advisors who are interested in seeking advice or counsel are encouraged to contact the Mentor Coordinator for referral to a mentor as necessary and appropriate. A contact such as this may or may not lead to an ongoing mentor-protégé relationship. It is reasonable to assume that there will be conditions or limits on any such relationship that may develop.

Advice for Mentors

It is important to remember that the protégé consider you an expert in your profession.

Try to understand and empathize with your protégé's needs by sharing personal and professional experiences.

Acknowledge the differences and similarities between the protégé's experiences and your own.

Remember that everyone makes mistakes. Learning from one's mistakes is usually a lesson well remembered. Although mistakes may be frustrating, they should be accepted as part of the personal and professional growth everyone experiences.

Be patient and recognize that the learning process takes time. Try to guide your prot6g6 toward taking on beneficial learning experiences.

Be candid with your protégé. By "telling it like it is" in a compassionate way, you will be free to offer advice that is realistic, useful, and on target. This approach minimizes frustration for the protégé and the mentor.

Respect the protégé's time commitments. Do your best not to be late or cancel appointments.

Advice for Proteges

Take advantage of the professional opportunities provided to you through your mentor.

Be objective, honest, and thoughtful with your mentor. This enables your mentor to provide you with the best advice possible.

If your issue specific contact becomes an ongoing relationship:

It is important to take responsibility for initiating and maintaining communication with your mentor.

Seek out your mentor between scheduled meetings if urgent issues arise. Prepare for each meeting. Consider proposing an agenda with specific objectives, concerns, or issues that you would like to address with your mentor. Give your mentor a copy of the agenda a few days before the meeting so she or he has an opportunity to prepare.

Make every effort to keep scheduled appointments with your mentor. Do your best not to be late or cancel appointments.

Respect the mentor's time commitments. Recognize that your mentor has many responsibilities in addition to the mentoring commitment.

Role Descriptions for Mentors






Referral Agent


(Note that the name of the protégé and reason for mentor request will not be kept for confidentiality reasons, but the coordinator will follow up with the protégé to seek feedback about mentor guidance.)