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Starting Your Career: The Value of
Mentoring and Career Development


JONATHAN N JOHNSON, MD
Mayo Clinic
Rochester, Minnesota, USA

johnson.jonathan@mayo.edu


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In this month of October, we celebrate many holidays around the world. In the United States, Columbus Day is celebrated, and our Canadian colleagues celebrate Thanksgiving. Worldwide, our Muslim colleagues celebrate Eid-al-Adha, while our Jewish colleagues celebrate Sukkot. All of these holidays are times for celebration, reflection, and appreciate of our families, friends, and colleagues. For any junior faculty member, however, the most resonant holiday in October may be Halloween, reminding them of scary moments and difficult decisions they had to make early in their career.

We have all had these moments early on: the first patient that presented in a way different than anything you saw during your training (if this hasn't happened to you yet, trust me, it will happen); the first difficult decision that you had to make about whether or not to list a child for transplant, and the conversation that had to take place with the child and their family; the first time a patient had a poor outcome on your watch; the first time you had an open disagreement with a colleague about the appropriate management of a patient, and had to reconcile those opinions in the best interests of the patient. Or maybe for you, the scariest moment was taking your national boards in your specialty for the first time.

In all of these situations, a mentor can be extremely valuable-just having someone to call to discuss that difficult patient, or serve as a sounding board when all isn't going well in your position. Sometimes reassurance is all that you may need. During my first trip to ISHLT as a fellow, I had the opportunity to meet several senior faculty members at a Mentor Luncheon hosted by the Junior Faculty and Trainee Council. It was a great luncheon, and I obtained several contacts among some senior faculty members that I use to this day. As you consider attending the ISHLT Annual Meeting next year in Montréal, I highly encourage you to take advantage of any mentoring meeting or luncheon that is offered. Write down phone numbers and e-mail addresses. And don't be afraid to write or call.

The ISHLT Mentorship Program:

The goal of the ISHLT Mentorship Program is to provide an opportunity for trainees to meet with an established specialist in their respective field in order to facilitate communication and gain guidance, and provide an opportunity for academic career enrichment.

Interested mentees and mentors complete a brief survey so that the Junior Faculty Committee can find a match based on mutual interests. For more information or to find out how to participate, please contact the JFTC at ishltmentorprogram@gmail.com. (This program is only available to current ISHLT members.)

For the over-achievers among us (you know who you are), saying "no" for the first time to your department chair can be frightening. While what they are asking of you may be innocuous, sometimes we all have to realize that we can't do everything, every day, all the time, and we all have our limits. You already may be frustrated with your work-life balance, or with how your position has evolved over time. It is important to establish career goals and a career development plan early on, and revisit it frequently with your leadership and your mentors. Ask yourself questions like, "Where do I want to be in 5, 10, 20 years?" And then ask, "What am I going to do to get myself there?" Write it down-but don't tuck it away in a file somewhere, never again to see the light of day. Keep it on your desk, on your wall, wherever you will see it and remind yourself where you want to go with your career.

Starting your career in any field of medicine is scary - there's really no way around it. But, october links image with a little help from your friends (mentors, colleagues, the ISHLT), even october links image the scariest of Halloween movies can end well.

Here's wishing everyone in the ISHLT community a Happy Halloween, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, Eid-al-Adha, and Sukkot.

Disclosure Statement: The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.