Mentorship Is a Key Component for a Successful Ovarian Cancer Research Team

Posted September 22, 2020

Erinn Rankin, Ph.D., Stanford University

Dr. Erinn Rankin

Dr. Erinn Rankin

The Ovarian Cancer Research Program’s (OCRP) Ovarian Cancer Academy is a career development platform where talented and highly committed Early-Career Investigators/Scholars, their mentors, and the Academy Deans collaborate and network. The goal of the Academy is to help establish the Scholars as the next generation of successful and highly respected ovarian cancer researchers. As a recently (2014) appointed Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford University, Dr. Erinn Rankin aspired to develop a vibrant, interdisciplinary research team with the long term goal of identifying and developing therapeutic strategies for the treatment of ovarian cancer. To facilitate this, she became a member of the Ovarian Cancer Academy in 2014 when she received an Ovarian Cancer Academy - Early-Career Investigator Award. The Ovarian Cancer Academy has supported the growth of multiple career development skills for Dr. Rankin, such as running and funding a research laboratory, establishing collaborations, and being an effective mentor. 

Mentorship is a key component of building a successful ovarian cancer research team. Dr. Rankin takes mentoring very seriously by ensuring that the laboratory environment is positive, collaborative, and focused on ovarian cancer research that has the potential to positively impact patient care. Dr. Rankin’s laboratory performs basic and translational research, so she has the opportunity to mentor the growth and success of both clinicians and scientists. Her research team currently consists of a Ph.D. student, three postdoctoral fellows, and a gynecologic oncology fellow. Dr. Rankin explained that every trainee is different and has unique goals and metrics for success. A mentee’s interest may lie in basic, translational, or clinical research. Their career goals may be research positions in academia, industry, or medicine. Dr. Rankin tailors her mentoring style for each individual by first identifying their needs, then cultivating their strengths and growing their skills to better help achieve their goals, all while aiming to enhance and highlight the strengths of each individual to assist the team in performing meritorious research. Dr. Rankin has been able to improve her mentoring techniques through her interactions at the Ovarian Cancer Academy. 

The Ovarian Cancer Academy has provided great examples of effective mentorship that Dr. Rankin has been able to incorporate into her own laboratory. Dr. Rankin’s mentor in the Academy, Dr. Jonathan Berek, is a clinician scientist who has over 30 years’ experience mentoring young scientists. As part of her development plan for the Academy, Dr. Rankin meets with her mentor once a week to discuss her research and growth as a scientist; these meetings have also provided her with a current clinician’s perspective of the clinical community, something of relevance to her oncological fellow and students aiming to be part of the practicing medical field. As a member of the academy, she also interacts with other ovarian cancer mentors through a monthly Ovarian Cancer Academy webinar series and annual workshops. These interactions have been instrumental in developing Dr. Rankin’s mentoring style by providing shining examples of how to listen and guide the growth of mentees. 

Since joining the Ovarian Cancer Academy 5 years ago, Dr. Rankin has developed a strong ovarian cancer research team that has produced quality data and impactful results contributing to six funding awards, including two subsequent OCRP funding awards, and 15 publications in peer reviewed journals. While her laboratory is still new, recent alumni from Dr. Rankin’s laboratory have successfully progressed forward in their careers as laboratory technician research professionals, medical students, and a research scientist at a pharmaceutical company. Dr. Rankin is grateful for the support and mentorship the Ovarian Cancer Academy has provided her that has shaped the way she mentors her team. Since its inception in 2009, the Ovarian Cancer Academy has been extremely successful at guiding and developing the mentoring approaches of 26 past and current members. The Academy has helped develop strong ovarian cancer teams, as evidenced by the 700 publications in peer-reviewed journals that the Academy members have produced, as well as the 196 funding grants the Academy members have obtained (worth over $69 million). More importantly, the Ovarian Cancer Academy and its constituents continue to inspire and grow the next generation of ovarian cancer researchers.



Public and Technical Abstracts: The Role of Hypoxia in the Tumor Microenvironment: Implications for Ovarian Cancer Therapy 

More information about the Ovarian Cancer Academy can be found at

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Last updated Thursday, May 26, 2022