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March Into Mentorship

Jonathan P Singer, MD MS
University of California, San Francisco

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jonathan singerOn the eve of the 32nd ISHLT Annual Meeting (while preparing my poster and making lists of things to do in Prague), I've reflected on how the mentorship I've received over the last two years from this Society has tangibly impacted my career development. In anticipation of my 3rd mentorship meeting next month, I was asked to describe my experience in the ISHLT Mentorship Program. As an added wrinkle, I was asked to tie it creatively to the month of March. The Ides of March was suggested as an example. It didn't take me long to realize that my experience with my Society mentor and others has been very different from that of Julius Caesar and Marcus Junius Brutus! Instead of the Ides, March has come to signal two important events—the U.S. collegiate basketball playoffs (aptly nicknamed "March Madness") and preparing each year for the ISHLT Annual Meeting.

Two years ago, I attended my first ISHLT Meeting in Chicago. Several months earlier, an email arrived inviting new/junior attendees to submit a description of their career goals with the aim of identifying a like-minded Society mentor. In my response, I explained that I was a graduating pulmonary/critical care fellow, had completed an additional clinical fellowship in lung transplantation and a year-long, structured post-doctoral training program in clinical research. I noted that I was seeking a career that blended clinical transplant medicine with patient-centered outcomes research, including health-related quality of life (HRQL). I soon learned just how seriously the ISLHT took their goal of identifying well-matched mentors. As I sat in the coffee shop of the Chicago Hilton, my Society mentor approached and introduced herself, "Hi, I'm Lianne Singer. When I was a transplant fellow at Stanford, I did the same clinical research training program you did. I do clinical transplant medicine and I'm interested in patient-centered outcomes research, including HRQL." Impressive, I thought to myself—even our names match (we actually are not related).

At that first meeting, we chatted about the many opportunities within the ISHLT available to junior members. I've made every effort to take full advantage of these great resources. After only two years, it's hard to recount the many mentorship opportunities available without creating what feels like a laundry list. That year in Chicago and the following year in San Diego, I felt immediately welcomed at the Pulmonary Scientific Council Quality of Life Workforce meetings. It was exciting to sit with many of the people whose research has informed my thinking. As a direct result of those meetings, I've begun to work with Lianne and others on the developing multicenter pilot study aimed at collecting longitudinal quality of life data which will be linked to the ISHLT Registry (Quality of Life in Lung Transplantation [QUILT]). Beyond serving as my society mentor, Lianne is also an advisor on my K23 mentored career development award through the National Institutes of Health anticipated to begin this July. For this award, others I met through the Society reviewed and offered valuable advice on how I might respond to the critiques on the proposal's initial submission.

The opportunities for mentorship in the Society didn't end with Lianne. At the Junior Faculty and Fellows Luncheon, I learned strategies for successfully publishing research directly from Mandeep Mehra and James Kirklin. I applied these strategies, as well as ideas from chats with Lianne and others in the Society, to develop projects based on data from within my own institution as well as UNOS Registry data.1 Moreover, my first research project in lung transplantation was presented as a "mini-oral" presentation in Chicago and later published in the Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation.2 Beyond being interesting research questions in and of themselves, I've used these projects to hone the analytic skills I will need to analyze the longitudinal impact of lung transplantation on patient-centered outcomes through a prospective cohort study here at UCSF and with my new Society colleagues through the QUILT project and other planned collaborations.

The mentorship and collaborations I have found through the ISHLT have played a truly important role in my early career development as an aspiring academic transplant pulmonologist. The Society is committed to the mentorship of junior members: it "walks the walk." As the first day of spring arrives, March signals lots of great college basketball on television and the anticipation of the 32nd ISHLT Annual Meeting, where I plan to have more great talks with Lianne and others mentors about exciting opportunities and future collaborations.

jon singer, surfer dudeDisclosure Statement:
Dr. Singer has an investigator-initiated grant from Novartis to study health-related quality of life outcomes in lung transplant recipients.

References:

  1. (Watkins KD et al. J Heart Lung Transplant 2011; Dec 12 [e-pub ahead of print; Singer JP senior author]), Singer JP et al. Occup Med 2011; Nov 9 [e-pub ahead of print], Singer JP et al. Am J Transplant 2011;11:2197-204)
  2. (Singer JP et al. J Heart Lung Transplant 2010; 19:1009-13)

Photo: the author, pondering new research ideas in lung transplant medicine.