The Physicians Foundation is seeking to support the development of an innovative, evidence-based mentorship model for physicians that encourages professional fulfillment and reduces burnout. Funding is available to support research that elevates mentoring as a vehicle to increase professional fulfillment and decrease the incidence or severity of physician burnout.

Mentoring reduces burnout and increases professional fulfillment by enhancing professional relationships and providing opportunities for learning from peers. There are many ways in which mentoring can take place. The more common vertical structure has mid- or late- career physicians model the virtues and skills of their profession for early-career practicing physician or those in medical school or post-graduate training. There is also a significant opportunity for horizontal, or peer to peer, mentoring between practicing physicians. Physicians can all learn and be inspired by sharing experiences that increase connectedness, meaning, and purpose in professional endeavors. The Physicians Foundation seeks to learn more about the effects of both peer-to-peer and traditional vertical mentoring with particular interest in research leading to improved knowledge of the effects of either mentoring approach on professional fulfillment and burnout. 

Practicing physicians are experiencing a number of challenges – a loss of connections with other doctors, decreased professional stature, increasing regulatory, payer, and operational demands, and a complexity that emphasizes metrics in place of the art of medicine. There is a greater sense of pessimism about the state of the profession, which has drained the joy out of practice for many physicians. This sentiment has been compounded by the loss of professional peer camaraderie that was once inspiring and validating. At the same time, these physicians are teaching, supervising, and working with students, residents, and physicians in their early years of practice and imparting a sense of futility and negativity. During a time when the students and residents are vulnerable to criticism, the negative feedback about the profession and health care from those who teach and mentor them can be detrimental. It can contribute to a disillusionment with their experience, leading to early and severe burnout that is manifested in the high frequency of depression and suicide in the student and resident population. This disillusionment early on sets up future physicians for an unfulfilling career and can be a great disservice to society and the profession.

Mentoring should be considered an important professional exercise and should be a part of lifelong learning. The proposed project should consider some or all of the following aspects of mentorship models, including:

  • Curriculum that has adaptations for stage, age, specialty, and ongoing engagement
  • Methods for matching mentors and mentees
  • Screening tools for identifying physicians at risk for significant mental health issues
  • Measuring impact and outcomes of mentorship models
  • Mentoring as a Maintenance of Certification (MOC) project

Efforts to address concerns around physicians’ professional fulfillment often seek to address the growing number of administrative burdens and regulations as well as offering leadership programs to elevate the physicians’ voice. In addition to the work that the Foundation supports in those areas, it would like to address the other social and emotional burdens that physicians face through the research outlined in this RFP. Specifically, the Physicians Foundation seeks to support research that addresses one or more of the following questions:

  • Fulfillment: Can mentoring contribute to an improvement in professional fulfillment and decrease the rate of burnout? 
  • Rejuvenation: Can mentoring programs be developed that help doctors re-center on the ideals and attributes of being a physician and connect them with peers and young physicians? 
  • Restoration: Can mentoring be a helpful way to heal and sustain those who have experienced burnout and help them reground their professional identity?
  • Connection: What are the essential attributes, skills, or processes of mentorship experiences that enhance professional fulfillment and prevent burnout?

Proposal Details and Timetable
The Foundation anticipates the selection of up to 3 successful applicants from among a small number of experts invited to respond to this RFP. A proposal should include a description of how your project addresses the purpose described in this RFP, a proposed research plan and activities, a budget and a biosketch of the key researcher(s). Requests should be for projects up to 2 years in duration for no more than $100,000 total. Organizations whose projects reveal successful models may be considered for renewed support at the end of the grant period.

RFP Release Date: January 30, 2017
Proposals Due:  March 2, 2017
Funding Decisions: April 22, 2017
Project Start Date: May 1, 2017

How to Apply
To apply for a grant, register and login to the Foundation’s online application system. Proposals must be complete and submitted with all required responses and attachments in order to be considered for funding in this grant cycle. Please use the access code “Mentoring” to access this application. Note that organizations with a current active grant from the Physicians Foundation are not eligible to apply.

If you have questions regarding the application, please contact the Foundation’s Program Officer, Danielle Belanger at 617-391-3073 or


To access full RFP, please click here.