Dr. Guillermo Prado Receives Prestigious Award for Mentoring

Guillermo “Willy” Prado, Ph.D., Dean of the Graduate School and professor of public health sciences, received the Friend of ECPN (Early Career Preventionist Network) award at the 27th Annual Convention of the Society for Prevention Research for his dedication to transforming the lives of young professionals in his field.

Though this is not Prado’s first Society for Prevention Research (SPR) award — it is actually his fourth — it has been the most meaningful to date, as it recognizes a quality that means everything to him: his innate gift for mentoring. The Friend of ECPN is awarded to a mid-career or senior preventionist who has supported and encouraged early career preventionists.

“It’s kind of surreal to see how things have come full circle. I just won an award for mentoring the person I was 10 years ago,” Prado said when recalling his first SPR award, the ECPN Early Career Award in 2007.

Prado has many hats at UM: Dean of the Graduate School, professor of public health sciences, and director of the Division of Prevention Science and Community Health. He considers mentoring the thread that connects all of his responsibilities.

“Mentoring is about helping people grow, so to me it is an intrinsic part of being a professor, a researcher and a Dean as a leader to my team at the Graduate School,” Prado said. “It is at the core of what I do and who I am as a person. It feels so natural to me that I can’t see myself not doing it.”

It is Prado’s selflessness and commitment to making time for mentees that distinguishes his mentorship philosophy. “You need to be invested. You need to give it your all,” he said. “If you are not in it wholeheartedly, don’t do it.”
Prado was nominated by three of his former mentees, two of whom are current faculty members at UM. J.D. Smith, assistant professor at Northwestern University and the former mentee who initiated Prado’s nomination, said in his recommendation letter that Prado “is incredibly giving of his limited time and his valuable resources for those who will become the next leaders and mentors in the field.”

Denise Vidot, Ph.D., from the School of Nursing and Health Studies, describes him as a very supportive and generous mentor who always gives opportunities to his team. “He is more about developing his team than himself or his research,” she said. “Not everybody does that. I think that makes him unique as a mentor.”

Sara St. George, assistant professor of public health sciences, values Prado’s selflessness and his authenticity. “What is most remarkable about him is not just that he opens doors for early career investigators but how he does it – with thoughtfulness and authenticity. I hope to be as selfless a mentor as him to my future mentees,” she said.

St. George considers Prado not only a mentor in her research field, but also a role model for developing into an exceptional mentor. “I actually started building a list on the notes app in my phone called ‘qualities of a good mentor’ and I populated it mostly by watching him mentor me.”

Prado currently has 12 mentees and is looking forward to teaching a doctoral level seminar in the fall semester about professional development, which will include mentoring.

“Rarely does anyone teach you how to be a mentor — you mostly learn it along the way,” he said. “You have to build and nurture the relationship with your mentee and make sure you have a good fit in terms of personalities.

“I have been very fortunate to have phenomenal mentors throughout my life, so I feel compelled to pay it forward. I hope my mentees feel the same and hopefully pay it forward as well, doubling up their efforts and becoming an even better mentor than I have been.”

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