“The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting,” Plutarch once said. Of course, to build a fire, it helps to have a good spark and steady flow of oxygen. Encouragement, after all, might just lead to inspiration, which could make all the difference. But how does that happen?
Take the mind of a young nephrologist trying to decide whether to pursue pediatric nephrology, onco-nephrology, or kidney transplantation. What kind of career will be the most fulfilling? What kind of guidance and support might be needed along the way? How do you measure success?
These are not easy questions. Various circumstances and factors inform the answers. But what if someone was willing to offer advice based on experience? Enter ASN’s Mentor Match Program, an online tool available in ASN Communities that features a searchable database to help establish mentoring relationships.
“The program is a platform for individuals with similar interests in nephrology to meet and connect virtually,” explains Dr. Nilou Yarandi, who enrolled as a mentee. “This program provides the opportunity to learn from experts at different institutions and build long-standing professional relationships.”
Registered mentees can search among registered mentors using specified criteria to find individuals whose experience and expertise match areas in which they wish to be mentored. Likewise, registered mentors can search for and identify potential mentees.
“I think the most rewarding aspect was seeing my mentee grow as our project developed,” says Dr. Matthew Sparks, who mentored Dr. Yarandi, a general nephrology fellow at the time. “We used this mentorship opportunity to develop a project connecting my interest in hypertension and Dr. Yarandi’s interest in onco-nephrology. We wrote one of the first papers on the subject for the Journal of Onco-nephrology titled “Onco-hypertension: Overview of hypertension with anti-cancer agents.” This was a rewarding experience and gave Dr. Yarandi an opportunity to write as part of a larger group.”
Now an onco-nephrology fellow at Mayo Clinic, Dr. Yarandi says working with Dr. Sparks aligned well with his fellowship training and played a major role in his learning and career development in the field of nephrology. “Dr. Sparks generously shared his time, experiences, and wisdom to help me achieve my professional goals,” he adds. “Participating in the program and working with Dr. Sparks has inspired me to set a goal to help and support the next generation of nephrologists in the future in the same way I was supported.”
ASN members can enroll in the program as a mentee, a mentor, or both. To establish personal criteria, mentees and mentors select preferences specific to job function, communication preferences, career stage, areas of interest, and research type. Registered mentees and mentors can then search a database to find individuals who correspond to the criteria they selected. Then they can send a request to certain people to explore the possibility of a mentee- or mentor-relationship.
More than 100 ASN members have registered for the program since it launched in 2020. Beyond educational circles, jobs, and friends, ASN’s Mentor Match Program creates a low stake, no-pressure environment with a diverse pool of people willing to build meaningful relationships.
“I think this is something everyone should give a try,” says Dr. Sparks. “We should all continue to meet, collaborate, and think about new ways to do things. This is especially true now that we are all physically separated more. Thanks to ASN for building this program. I hope others give it a shot.”