The Power of Mentorship

Studies have shown that the first five years of a new faculty member’s career in an academic setting are critical to their overall success and satisfaction in medicine. Keeping this in mind, a formalized Duke Anesthesiology mentorship program was established in 2009 with the help of former vice chair of faculty development, Tong-Joo Gan, MD, MHS. This initiative was the vision of Mark F. Newman, MD, President of Duke’s Private Diagnostic Clinic and former Chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology. Under this program, new and associate faculty members are paired with world-class experts who help to guide them in their pursuits. Mentors encourage mentees to push the envelope a little further and look for innovative ways to improve patient care.

After faculty members are paired with a mentor, they are placed within a “mentorship committee” that consists of the mentee, the mentor, and the division chief. Mentors meet with their mentees quarterly to review their current and future goals. The meetings help the mentor keep the mentee on track by developing short-term goals (six to twelve months), intermediate-term goals (one to three years, such as a manuscript or program), and long-term goals for career development.

After six-months, the mentor creates a formal report that outlines the mentee’s goals, achievements, and aspirations for the future. The mentor works with the mentee to identify obstacles and determine the resources needed for success. The mentorship committee then meets with the department chair to evaluate the success of the mentoring relationship and discuss future plans.

This initiative has also expanded to include residents and fellows, who also benefit from this guidance much earlier in their careers.

Former Chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology

Mark Newman, MDWhen Mark Newman, MD, came to Duke as a cardiac anesthesiology fellow in 1988, he had plans to go into private practice. “I came and I enjoyed the process so much that I was totally confused when I left,” recalls Dr. Newman. During his fellowship, Dr. Newman had two mentors, Jerry Reves, MD, and John Leslie, MD. “Dr. Reves showed me what I could do, trained me, put me on a pathway where I could succeed and gave me the credit for that success. Dr. Leslie made me feel a part of the team and allowed me to pick up and run some of my own projects at an early time, which made me realize that this is something that I can do.”

After three years of service in the United States Air Force as chief of cardiac anesthesiology at Wilford Hall, Dr. Newman made his way back to Duke in 1992. A few years later, there was an opportunity for a transition in leadership in the Division of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology. “We did a national search for a new chief, then Dr. Reves came and talked to me one day and asked me if I would consider the position. A lot of times, mentors see more in you than you see in yourself. I thought it was a little early, but I had a lot of support from the faculty and other people.”

As Dr. Newman progressed in his career at Duke, he found himself following in the footsteps of Dr. Reves. “Obviously, I had a good role model. Dr. Reves had been the chief of the cardiac division, then, over time, he allowed me to learn as vice chair of the department. When he went on to become dean, it was an opportunity for me to become interim chair, and then chair of the department. I think that’s what mentors do, they create opportunities for those coming behind them and then those people take advantage of it, and hopefully, take it to even higher levels than you would expect or hope when you’re the leader.”

Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
Veteran Affairs Anesthesiology Service
2013 DREAM Innovation Grant Recipient

Karthik Raghunathan, MBBSIn July 2012, Karthik Raghunathan, MD, MPH, left his job in private practice at Baystate Medical Center, joined Duke, and moved his young family of five to start a new life in Durham. “Mentorship is a big reason why I moved to Duke,” says Dr. Raghunathan. He found that unlike his previous experiences, Duke celebrated a culture of curiosity and questioning. “Part of mentorship is being able to comfortably ask questions without fear. You want someone who is willing to listen even if you are raising something that seems very fundamental.”

As a fellow at Baystate Medical Center, Dr. Raghunathan’s mentor, Tom Higgins, MD – an anesthesiologist, intensivist, and vice-chair for the Department of Medicine – inspired him to think about his role in medicine globally. “I don’t think of what I do as being restricted to just the operating room, but how it impacts patients around the world,” Dr. Raghunathan explains.

After five years of practicing anesthesia in Springfield, Massachusetts, Dr. Raghunathan met Andrew Shaw, MD, MBBS, former Durham VA Hospital anesthesiologist and now Executive Vice Chair of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Department of Anesthesiology. Sharing similar research interests, Dr. Shaw encouraged Dr. Raghunathan to come to Duke, where his passion for research would be fostered by an innovative and collaborative environment. Once he joined Duke, Dr. Raghunathan was mentored by Dr. Shaw. “This place has exceeded my expectations in terms of having almost daily access to my mentor, not just professionally, but also personally,” says Dr. Raghunathan.

Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
Ambulatory Division
2013 DREAM Innovation Grant Recipient

Steve Melton, MDIn 2007, Steve Melton, MD, joined the ambulatory anesthesia faculty at Duke. “From the start, you’re surrounded by great people who want to get involved with your career beyond the clinical practice,” says Dr. Melton. Dr. Melton found many clinical mentors within his division, including Stephen Klein, MD (Chief of the Division of Ambulatory Anesthesia and Medical Director of the Ambulatory Surgery Center), Karen Nielsen, MD, and Marcy Tucker, MD, PhD. To serve as his research mentors, he also reached out to Ricardo Pietrobon, MD, PhD (Research and Innovation Coaching Program) and Richard Moon, MD (Medical Director of the Hyperbaric Center and former Chief of the Division of General, Vascular, and Transplant Anesthesia).

Drs. Klein, Nielsen, and Tucker fostered Dr. Melton’s interest in utilizing peripheral nerve blockades that are used in ambulatory surgery and applying them to rehabilitate stroke patients. Drs. Pietrobon and Moon showed Dr. Melton how to conduct research, obtain funding, and turned his research aspirations into reality. Dr. Melton was awarded a 2013 DREAM Innovation Grant as a result of the support he received from his mentors..

Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
Cardiothoracic and GVT Divisions
2013 DREAM Innovation Grant Recipient

Michael Manning, MDMichael Manning, MD, PhD, is a firm believer in the power of mentorship and has had several mentoring relationships throughout his career. During his undergraduate years at the University of Kentucky, he had a budding interest in research, something that David Randall, PhD, professor of cardiac physiology, noticed early on. “He quickly brought me into his lab and started introducing me to research and research techniques . . . and he really became a father figure to me,” says Dr. Manning. Dr. Randall guided Dr. Manning to pursue his career in research by encouraging him to attend graduate school followed by medical school. While in residency, Dr. Manning’s residency director, Randall Schell, MD, served as both his role model and advisor. Dr. Schell completed his cardiothoracic anesthesia training at Duke, and encouraged Dr. Manning to explore his interest in cardiovascular research and anesthesia at this institution.

When Dr. Manning came to Duke for his clinical fellowship, he was put under the mentorship of two key faculty. At the time, Mihai Podgoreanu, MD, served as a basic research scientist and anesthesiologist in the Division of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine. He is now the Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology. A well-known expert in the angiotensin function in the kidney, at that time Tom Coffman, MD, was also serving as the Chief of the Division of Nephrology in the Department of Medicine, and is now the James R. Clapp Professor of Medicine, a Professor in Cell Biology, and a Professor in Immunology. “Together, this mentoring team is going to bring me forward in my career and allow me to really look at angiotensin and the interplay between the heart and the kidney, especially centered around cardiopulmonary bypass,” says Dr. Manning.

He advises new faculty to take the first step in the mentoring program and build on it. “Once [you] get comfortable with the program, look for other people outside and build on those mentorship relationships,” adds Dr. Manning.

Associate Professor of Anesthesiology
Cardiothoracic Division
2013 DREAM Innovation Grant Recipient

Miklos Kertai, MDMiklos Kertai, MD, PhD, was drawn to Duke because of the formalized mentorship program that he knew was critical to his career development. He was at a point in his professional and scientific career where he wanted to dig deeper into the reasons why certain patients suffer postoperative atrial fibrillation, a serious complication following heart surgery.

Dr. Kertai was placed under the mentorship of Mihai Podgoreanu, MD (Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology) and Joseph Mathew, MD (Jerry Reves Professor of Anesthesiology and Chairman and Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology). “Dr. Podgoreanu was instrumental in helping me develop my research idea as well as getting the tools necessary that developed into a successful [grant] application, while Dr. Mathew was critical in reintroducing the importance of atrial fibrillation.”

Dr. Kertai attributes his ability to obtain a DREAM Innovation Grant and pursue his research interests to his mentors and the support of the division.