Strong mentorship is part of the “Iowa Difference”

From the moment many of us first decided we wanted to pursue a career in medicine, a roadmap emerged, with clear milestones that had to be achieved. From our undergraduate institutions all the way through our fellowships, we more or less knew what was next or what might be required to advance to the next stage of our training. We were measured, compared and graded. We were interviewing, ranking, and being ranked. We knew where we stood. Things change, though, when we find ourselves in our first faculty role, as an assistant professor with a teaching load, clinical responsibilities, or a research program to build. We may have to respond to that editor’s queries or reviewers’ critiques of a manuscript or prepare for a couple committees that need our participation. And when will those compliances get resolved? It is no doubt that those first few years stretch many of us thinner than all the years of training that preceded them. But what can be most difficult or stressful about that time can be the lack of guidance. In the absence of grades or class rankings—those reliable guideposts of one’s progress—some might reasonably feel adrift. In this department, however, we want your career progression to be as clear to you as knowing that residency followed medical school.

mentorshipIn Internal Medicine, we are building that support system from many different directions, and we are identifying opportunities to support faculty in all tracks. A few months ago we put out a call inviting junior faculty to meet one-on-one with a departmental Vice Chair of their choosing. That invitation remains open, and if you have not yet done so please contact our Vice Chair for Education, Dr. Joseph Szot, or Amy McDonald to arrange a meeting. Whether your passion is in research, education, clinical care, or some balance of all three, we are always ready to advise you on how to navigate your desired career path. For example, we can steer you toward programs like FACE to further hone your clinical education skills. We are fortunate, as well, to have Dr. Peter Snyder and Dr. Lois Geist in our department, who possess a wealth of information about the promotion process and other faculty matters. As important as these conversations are in providing clarity, we remain cognizant of the many other administrative and professional burdens that our faculty must attend to, to maintain credentialing and professional accreditation. Therefore, we will continue to strive to provide tangible support when needed. This is why we are proud to now offer Maintenance of Certification credit for attendance at most of our Grand Rounds. This program is growing, so please let us know how the MOC program can be further refined. We always want to hear how we can do better, how we can help you achieve your goals.

Mentorship success stories echo in our halls on a regular basis. We have faculty who have been here since residency, former fellows who will train others in the very program they completed. A strong model of mentorship exists in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Occupational Medicine. They are certainly as supportive of trainees as many other divisions are, but one only needs to count Pulmonary’s number of K-awards in the last few years to see how faculty guidance can make a difference at building that pipeline. The most recent K01 was awarded to Assistant Professor and former fellow Dr. Alejandro Pezzulo. His research, begun under Dr. Joseph Zabner’s guidance, also has resulted in a potential breakthrough discovery in treating goblet cell metaplasia, an important contributor to various chronic lung diseases. Dr. Pezzulo, Dr. Zabner, and their colleagues published the findings in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Congratulations to all and thank you to Dr. Zabner for your leadership and promotion of a strong culture of mentorship.

dsc_0871smAlthough K-awards and fellowship programs offer direct and structured instruction and guidance from mentors, there are other times when instructors might not always be present for the trainee. This is where technology can fill a portion of that gap. Devices like the endoscopy simulator used by GI fellows show us how this can work. Trainees make use of it on their schedule to deepen their skills, learn new ones, and log their progress for their instructors to review later. Technology does not take the place of the personal relationship between teacher and student but, if we use it wisely, it can more quickly enable our clinicians to develop essential skills and to be prepared for any clinical situation that they might encounter.

About E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD

E. Dale Abel, MD PhD Francois M. Abboud Chair in Internal Medicine John B. Stokes III Chair in Diabetes Research Chair, Department of Internal Medicine Director, Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center Director, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering

Leave a Reply