As my fellowship inches toward completion, a new path is on the horizon. With anticipation, I am ready to embark on a new academic career in nephrology.
I often reflect on the factors that have brought me to this point, including years of education and training. I know one thing for certain: I could not have arrived here without my mentors and their guidance.
I feel fortunate to have had several mentors, including family members, friends, and teachers. These extraordinary people entered my life at various points and shaped me into the person I am today. All my mentors, even with their differences, also share many similarities. They all lead by example. They are always available for questions or talks, whether related to work and education or personal matters. They always give me honest advice and feedback. They exemplify what it means to be a mentor. I hope to emulate them in the future.
The mentor–mentee relationship is invaluable in the field of medicine, where confidence in making decisions is a direct result of the mentee’s having an experienced person available for consultation at critical moments.
At a time when interest in nephrology as a specialty is low and some fellowship programs remain vacant, it is up to those who love this field to inspire and motivate trainees and medical students in order to help shape their careers and futures. Personally, if it had not been for my amazing nephrology attendings during residency training, and their enthusiasm for teaching, love for the field, and constant encouragement, I might not have chosen nephrology. I can only hope to have the same impact on someone else in the future.
Recently, I had the privilege of attending the Women in Leadership workshop at the Renal Physicians Association Spring 2018 Meeting in Orlando, Florida. There, a group of mostly women, including fellows and those in established practices, gathered to hear the insights of great women in nephrology, including Eleanor Lederer, MD, Rebecca Schmidt, DO, and Ellie Kelepouris, MD. These leaders spoke about how they achieved success, and they named mentorship as one of the essentials to their success. They also noted the importance of mentorship for women by other women. When audience members were asked, “How many of you have female mentors?” only a few raised their hands compared with those who raised their hands when asked about having male mentors. This should serve as a motivation to women in the field to step up to the challenge of being a mentor but also to those seeking out mentors to reach out to women who can often provide different perspectives and experiences.
A June 2018 twitter chat about Women in Medicine uncovered several common themes participants considered key traits for mentors:
Honesty. Mentees look to their mentors for the hard truth that they cannot get from others and for advice to make them better physicians and guide them through their decisions.
Availability. Mentors must be available and open to questions. To this day, I can text, call, or email my mentors knowing I will always get a response no matter how long it has been since we last spoke or saw each other.
Mentors may not always be available for hours at a time, but even a short text or email can do wonders. For example, after a particularly challenging call weekend at the start of my fellowship, my mentor from residency emailed me: “You are an awesome doc, special person, hang in there, a pleasure to work with you and train, now crush this fellowship thing!” His five short statements were just the calm voice amid the chaos I needed to get back to my goal.
Motivation: A mentor not only motivates through advice but also inevitably leads by example, and it is this example that mentees can rely on and try to emulate in their own careers.
Going forward, I can only hope to be able to mentor someone else in the same way my mentors have mentored me. To those of us graduating and moving on to our new respective careers, I hope we are encouraged to help those behind us, share our experiences, and hopefully propel the future generation to greatness.
So, if you have not done so already—especially for those just entering the field of medicine and nephrology—I encourage you to find a mentor. Better yet, find a few and hold on to them for life, as they will be the backbone to your future. On a personal note, I would like to thank all my mentors throughout nephrology fellowship. I hope that one day I might have the same impact on someone else that you have had on me.