Mentorship: When Your Commitment to Success Comes Full Circle
As a first year medical student, I was bombarded with pressure about making my last “free” summer count so that I could get into the best residency program and get the best job. I stumbled across an advertisement for a summer research program offered by ASH during the winter of 2006. After doing a module in histology with “The Red, White and Blue Cells of the Bone Marrow,” I felt confident that I could tackle more hematology.
After my application was accepted, I was placed in the lab of Edmund Waller, MD, PhD, at Emory University Winship Cancer Institute in Atlanta. My initial introductory conversation was nerve-racking to say the least. I was definitely in the “big leagues” and it was quickly apparent that I was wading into more than cell identification under the microscope.
I worked long days and weekends during my 10-week summer in Dr. Waller’s lab. I learned the basic science skills like pipetting, but I also performed stem cell collection and bone marrow transplantation in mice, and I learned about protein markers on select cells and using flow cytometry for cell sorting. I submitted my first scholarly abstract to ASH and subsequently presented my work at two conferences.
In addition to teaching me about science, Dr. Waller imparted the importance of work-life balance and the imperative of being able to explain any topic, no matter how complex, so that any third grader could understand.
I subsequently graduated from medical school, and with a letter of support, got into my dream residency program, and ultimately, a fellowship program in Pediatric Hematology Oncology at Emory University/Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. At the conclusion of my fellowship, I was recruited to the department of Pathology in the Division of Cellular Therapies for Transfusion Medicine and Apheresis. In a strange turn of fate, this was the same department of which my mentor Dr. Waller was also a member.
While I cannot guarantee that your mentee will follow in your footsteps much as I did with Dr. Waller, please know that your commitment is priceless. Whether you encourage someone to be the best hematologist ever, or remind them that family, friends, and a support structure sustain you personally and professionally, you have contributed in some way to the personal and professional development of someone’s future.
A bit more than 10 years after my initial experience with my mentor, things have truly come full circle. I am honored to have been a recipient of research support from ASH through the Minority Medical Student Award Program, and all that contributed to furthering diversity in Hematology. Thank you to Dr. Waller and all of the other mentors, whose lab and clinical support contributed to my success. Thank you to all of my other ASH mentors, including Dr. Christopher Flowers and Dr. Alexis Thompson who gave me professional and personal support throughout the last decade. Lastly, thank you to all of the past, present and current ASH mentors that are ASH mentors who have contributed to the success of some medical student, nurse, research assistant, or colleague. You are the shoulders upon which we stand and work hard to emulate.