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Mentorship is a Two-Way Street

In observance of Women's History Month, Andrea Stubbs of the St. Jude HPV Cancer Prevention Program shares the following perspective.

by Kerry Goff

Andrea Stubbs outdoors

Andrea Stubbs, St. Jude HPV Cancer Prevention Program administrative director.

In her current role, Andrea Stubbs, St. Jude HPV Cancer Prevention Program administrative director, finds mentorship is a two-way street.

"I think mentorship comes natural to me, and I try to model how others supported me," Stubbs said. "I affirm, I encourage, I bring in instruction and correction, but I make sure the mentees feel validated, encouraged and empowered. They are like sponges, so they look for opportunities to grow, much like we all do."

Stubbs was with the St. Jude HIV Clinical Program for 14 years and then moved to the HPV program in early 2021. The HPV Cancer Prevention Program currently has a staff of five and is growing.

"I like to say we have a flat infrastructure, where we all participate in idea generation, all aiming to increase HPV vaccination rates," she said. "I include the team in decision-making meetings and involve them in tasks and opportunities to help them nurture the practical side of building and planning programs, while investing in their interests."

Stubbs explained that at St. Jude, two women mentors offered her similar guidance: Pat Flynn, MD, Infectious Diseases, and Heather Brandt, PhD, HPV Cancer Prevention director. She said that the constant trust and encouragement created an environment to share ideas.

"Dr. Flynn recruited me 15 years ago to oversee the HIV program. Her words were very affirming, and she gave me the courage to build and to lead a very successful program for the Infectious Diseases department," Stubbs said. "That affirmation and high praise made me want to work harder. She would invite me to the table in decision-making processes and invested time and interest to see what I thought was best for the program. It really spoke volumes to me, and I felt safe to come to her with my ideas. Dr. Brandt possesses the same qualities as Dr. Flynn. She is affirming and a teacher, which allows for a lot of collaboration. She is not afraid to take risks and encourages me to take on other interests."

Stubbs explained that it was not only mentorship, but also sponsorship. She said it is important to promote those around you where their talents are the strongest—that is how people grow into leadership positions.

Before St. Jude, Stubbs worked with the Tennessee Department of Health, and she was guided by Alisa Malone, who was director of the community services division.

"I was so green coming out of graduate school," she said. "Alisa invited me to planning meetings, and she wanted me to understand how decisions are made and invited me to attend certain training to improve my skill set and really become a leader in my own right. That helped build my confidence and I felt seen and affirmed as a part of something greater."

In the recent Diversity and Inclusion Town Hall, James R. Downing, MD, St. Jude president and CEO, and Kelvin Womack, senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, discussed the importance of having more women in leadership roles at St. Jude. Stubbs explained that when she first started, she didn't see many women, especially minority women, in leadership positions, but she found support in her journey, and she is now helping increase that likelihood for others.

"Some can have the experience and knowledge, but others must take an active interest in promoting and supporting others," she said. "Because I was authenticated and brought to the table, it made it easier to have access and visibility to allow for growth for me, and I hope it allows growth for others in the same way. I also appreciate that we can support and amplify organizations that may not have the same resources that we do. That is a great accomplishment, and I love that I am a part of it."

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