Dr. Melissa Simon does not hesitate to declare that "My mentorship is compassionate, empowerment-oriented, unconditional, honest, and holistic." The key to her approach is modifying the existing architecture of how students and junior faculty from non-traditional backgrounds move through the pipeline so that they have equal opportunity for success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. Dr. Simon believes the science career trajectory is fraught with socialization issues that do not have relevance to the lives of young women and men from underrepresented groups. She seeks to make a dent in that problem by improving socialization patterns and pathways to STEM careers, and supporting models of mentoring that foster university-community partnerships. This community-engaged approach is " ... similar to the foundation of my body of research, acknowledging that each partner brings strengths to the relationship and the relationship seeks to leverage each of these strengths."
Dr. Simon emphasizes the team approach in her lab, encouraging persistence and resilience. Alongside this philosophy, she provides opportunities for research experiences and partnerships with other higher education institutions, community-based organizations, and schools. Over the past decade, she has individually mentored 93 high school students, undergraduate students, pre-doctoral and medical students, trainees, and faculty, of whom 23 percent were Latino/a, 12 percent were African American, 88 percent were female, and 90 percent were their family's first generation to enter and graduate college.
Dr. Simon is involved with a number of programs that expand her mentoring reach beyond her lab. She co-directs the Women's Health and Science Program at Northwestern University with Dr. Teresa Woodruff (PAESMEM Organizational Awardee 2010), and founded and directs the Cancer Health Disparities Research Program, an 8-week long summer program to address historically insufficient efforts to foster health disparities research by institutions that serve underrepresented students.
Dr. Simon's mentorship has been scaled to provide tools and support for other mentors. She is a founding member of the Mentor Development Academy at the Feinberg School of Medicine, which hosts workshops available to all 1,800 full-time faculty. Dr. Simon also has created the world's first healthcare workforce development course through a free, global massive open online course (MOOC) format, "Career 911: Your Future Career in Medicine and Healthcare." She has built partnerships with representatives from local high schools, community colleges, and organizations to integrate her MOOC curriculum into their existing programs. She has received several teaching and mentoring awards, including the Magnus P. Urnes Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine Resident Teaching Award and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Mentor of the Year Award.