Empowering researchers through coaching: UMN KL2 scholar leans into community-engaged research

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Ann Treacy
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Coaching empowered Dr. Diaz Vickery (second from right) to pursue outside-the-box approaches to research, such as disseminating diabetes research through participatory theater.

Coaching is a powerful force for catalyzing the success of early-career researchers at the University of Minnesota. UMN CTSA scholars who’ve received coaching are advancing their careers in ways that align with their values, separate from external pressures.

For example, it gave former KL2 scholar Kate Diaz Vickery, MD, MSc, the confidence and encouragement to lean into the community engagement work she’s passionate about and pursue outside-the-box approaches to research. This shone through last fall, when she participated alongside community members in a theater workshop and performance with zAmya Theater that shares her research on living with type 2 diabetes while homeless. 

“I got a clearer sense of who I am and how I wanted to show up in my career,” says Dr. Diaz Vickery, a UMN assistant professor and clinician-investigator with Hennepin Healthcare, a UMN CTSA hub partner. “Coaching makes me feel empowered; it was the best part of the KL2 program.”

Coaching also gave her the confidence to co-create the Health, Homelessness, and Criminal Justice Lab. According to Dr. Diaz Vickery, having a better sense of who she is and what she wants to focus on led directly to funding opportunities.

Expanding impact

Dr. Diaz Vickery isn’t the only success: The 75-plus UMN researchers that CTSI coached since 2015 are becoming leaders and changing the system to help others thrive.

Meanwhile, CTSI is broadening its reach and impact through optional group coaching sessions. Most who attend are early-career BIPOC faculty, a valuable insight for health research institutions. 

Some attendees even prefer group coaching over 1:1 sessions, potentially due to the opportunity to connect with and learn from one another as they bring their leadership and work challenges to the table. It’s possible group coaching is a better way to support some faculty, especially those with non-dominant institutional identities. 

“We started coaching scholars because I believed it would help them individually with self-awareness to develop their careers with a greater sense of intentionality and wholeness,” says Michelle Lamere, MPA, ACC, a certified coach and the assistant director of CTSI’s education and training programs. “But I never imagined these coaching sessions would give us insights on addressing common challenges in translational science."

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CTSA Program In Action Goals
Goal 1: Train and Cultivate the Translational Science Workforce
Goal 2: Engage Patients and Communities in Every Phase of the Translational Process