The Daily Dose • Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Setting Up for a Successful Academic Career

Allison M. Janda, MD

This highly informative session, Success in Academic: Finding Mentors and Sponsors, held during the IARS, AUA, SOCCA and eSAS Scholars’ Program on May 8, discussed the qualities of a mentorship and sponsorship team to set up mentees for successful academic careers. Jeanine Wiener-Kronish, MD, Isaiah Dorr Distinguished Professor of Research and Teaching in Anaesthetics and Anaesthesia at Massachusetts General Hospital, shared her experiences throughout her career and illustrated the importance of mentors and sponsors in the development and success of a career in academic anesthesiology.

With an introduction from Kristin Schreiber, MD, PhD, Dr. Wiener-Kronish began by providing background about her journey to academic anesthesia. She described challenges and obstacles she encountered which spurred her career transition from pulmonology to anesthesiology after working with anesthesiologists in the ICU. She saw in them a group of people and a field that would support her.

After completing her anesthesia residency, she explained that early on in her anesthesia career she primarily had researchers that served as her mentors, but that her mentorship team grew and changed as she took on new roles, such as department chair. She emphasized that a successful academic career needs both mentors and sponsors. Sponsors provide support such as invitations to give talks at meetings and other institutions, recommendations to write editorials or manuscripts, and nominations for committee membership or awards, whereas mentors help with research and career decisions, offer projects and create opportunities. Both are instrumental for a successful career in academia.

She then outlined some practical considerations for specific types and strategies of mentorships, echoed by Erin Seely, PhD. Dr. Wiener-Kronish discussed different styles, types and levels of mentoring including more traditional didactic mentoring such as a one-to-one relationship with one senior and one junior individual, peer mentoring, reverse mentoring and developmental mentoring. She encouraged early-career mentees to map out their networks to ensure that the roles and types of mentors are present in a mentorship and sponsorship team. She emphasized that it takes a village, explaining that different mentors are needed for different career aspects for different career stages and that this group of people may change over time as different types of expertise are needed as phases of a mentee’s career develop.

Some of her closing suggestions for early-stage academics to maintain a balanced life included a focus on care of yourself and your family, to have residents, fellows and faculty remember you as helpful and supporting, to enjoy work and want to come to work and lastly, to never lose sight of the goal of helping to improve patient care and outcomes.

A question and answer session followed with topics such as co-mentoring and how to handle conflicting advice. Regarding co-mentoring, Dr. Wiener-Kronish stated that it is important to have a small group of people who you respect and trust that you can send ideas, papers or grants to for co-mentorship, because this is a great way to get different aspects of advice. When mentors give conflicting advice, Dr. Wiener-Kronish recommended either asking a third mentor or person to weigh in and to also consider whose opinion you value for this specific topic in question. Dr. Wiener-Kronish offered to answer any further questions over email.