Developing positive relationships with mentors can be a crucial part of launching a successful career in clinical and research cardiology.
However, identifying a mentor and getting the most out of that relationship is not without its own challenges. Such challenges might include finding a mentor — or mentee — that is right for you and changing needs throughout the different phases of a career. Other obstacles include potential mentors being able to make time in their busy schedules to help develop aspiring and early career cardiologists as well as the underrepresentation of women in cardiology, which may be a barrier keeping women interested in internal medicine from choosing cardiology as their specialty.
Cardiology Today asked four Next Gen Innovators to discuss mentorship in the field of cardiology.
“Finding key mentors and latching on to them can help propel your career in academic medicine,” said Seth S. Martin, MD, MHS, FACC, FAHA, assistant professor of medicine and co-director of the Advanced Lipid Disorders Center at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. “I am indebted to my mentors. It has been the combination of things I’ve learned from each of them and the opportunities they’ve created for me that have propelled me into academic medicine. In addition, there’s an inner drive that you get when you see examples of the value of the synergy between patient care, research and teaching/mentorship.”
Finding the ‘right’ mentors
For those who are allured by the appeal of academic cardiology, finding the right mentors is incredibly important to forge a career, according to Puja K. Mehta, MD, FACC, FAHA, assistant professor in the division of cardiology at Emory University and director of women’s translational cardiovascular research at Emory Women’s Heart Center.
“The opportunity to be around thought leaders in cardiology, do research, and teach students was the biggest draw for me to stay in academics,” she said. “Every step of the way, I’ve been very fortunate to have had outstanding mentors who guided me. That’s the key: At every stage, starting from medical school to residency to fellowship, you have to identify those people who are going to direct and support you so that you can successfully get to the next stage in your career.”
However, the shortage of academic cardiologists, particularly women, might partly be explained by time demands that prevent potential mentors from devoting enough time to younger people in the field.
“Strong mentors are themselves successful individuals who are in high demand and there are only so many hours in the day,” Martin said.
Another obstacle is that development of research-based relationships may not be happening as much as it needs to in the fellowship stage, said Ki Park, MD,interventional cardiologist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Florida, Gainesville.
“To apply for a cardiology fellowship, many have already done significant research. Then when it comes to their actual fellowship time, it seems to get sort of dropped,” she said. “I understand the clinical obligations and the training demands. But I think if the environment is set up with more integrated lectures on research methodology — that’s something we’re working on in our program — and relating young faculty to fellows, then we can bridge the gaps and keep continuity in terms of research.”
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