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  • Radiology Mentors Leave a Lasting Imprint on Students

    For residents, finding the right mentor can open doors and pave the way for a successful radiology career. By Mary Henderson

    July 1, 2017

    As veteran physicians can attest, radiologists do not make it soley on their own. “We are a product of the teachers we’ve had, the patients we’ve cared for and the colleagues we’ve interacted with,” said James V. Rawson, MD, chair of radiology and imaging, Medical College of Georgia (MCG), at Augusta University. “We are the accumulated experiences we’ve had, many of which are not random, but guided by a mentor.”

    Dr. Rawson, a member of the RSNA Quality Improvement Committee who has lectured on mentoring, is a strong believer in the value of experienced physicians helping to develop future generations. “Part of our job is to help develop the individuals who will ultimately replace us,” he said.

    In addition to the formal mentoring program within MCG’s residency training, residents are encouraged to find additional like-minded mentors who can supervise a research project or shepherd them through the process of applying for fellowships or attending a national meeting.

    “We have a culture of many mentors,” Dr. Rawson said. “I’m a fan of formal mentoring relationships supplemented by multiple informal mentors.”

    After mentoring graduate students, post-doctorates, clinical radiologists and junior faculty, Jody L. Tanabe, MD, professor of radiology at the University of
    Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, agrees that it is critical to have multiple mentors — especially in academic radiology.

    “We face challenges in terms of research mentoring in radiology,” Dr. Tanabe said. “The majority of radiologists are not trained to conduct hypothesis-driven research, and as a result, we are often at a disadvantage compared to other specialties competing for grants funded by the NIH.”

    Dr. Tanabe, who earned an RSNA research scholar grant in 1998, currently serves as an advisor/mentor to University of Colorado radiology resident Michael F. Regner, MD, who was awarded a 2016 Hitachi Medical Systems/RSNA Research Resident Grant from the Research & Education (R&E) Foundation for his project, “Insular Inhibitory Neuromodulation to Reduce Cigarette Craving and Alter Brain fMRI Connectivity and Activity Patterns in Smokers.”

    “Dr. Tanabe has taught me what it means to be an academic researcher,” Dr. Regner said. “She’s not only experienced at conducting and guiding the process of medical research, but also applying for grants, developing an experimental design and managing complex collaborations as well. Having a strong mentor is a life-changing experience that opens doors and allows you to be successful at navigating complex systems in general.”

    Finding the Right Mentors

    National industry meetings, including RSNA annual meetings, often offer mentor workshops, but finding a mentor can also be as simple as asking. Dr. Regner knocked on Dr. Tanabe’s door because he was interested in her field of neuroradiology.

    “It takes luck to come together with the right mentor,” Dr. Tanabe said. “The more the mentor is aligned with your career, the more likely the relationship will succeed. If you’re young and you know what you’re interested in, persist and find that mentor who you click with.”

    Edward W. Lee, MD, PhD, assistant professor and director of research, interventional radiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has become deeply involved in helping young radiologists since relying on a mentor to help guide him through the early part of his career.

    “It’s not always easy finding a mentor,” Dr. Lee said. “I think it’s easier for established radiologists to look out for those who need our help, to show our interest and push them to grow as an academic radiologist.”

    When Dr. Lee learned that UCLA resident Sarah N. Khan, MD, was interested in a fellowship in interventional radiology, he encouraged her to apply for an R&E grant.

    Dr. Khan was awarded the 2016-2017 Philips Healthcare/RSNA Research Resident Grant to fund her project, “Tumor MicroRNA Expression Profiles as Biomarkers for Predicting Hepatocellular Carcinoma Tumor Response to Y90 Radioembolization.”

    “Dr. Lee is very knowledgeable and had also received an R&E grant himself, so he knew the process,” Dr. Kahn said. “It’s great to have someone show you the way instead of having to fend for yourself.”

    The Rewards of Mentoring

    One of the keys to successful mentor/mentee relationships is good communication. “It’s important to be honest and maintain consistent regular communication so your mentor knows where you’re at in your project and how they can be of help to you,” Dr. Regner said.

    Dr. Tanabe said mentor/mentee relationships often fail because the mentee expects the mentor to drive it — which was not the case with Dr. Regner.

    “I could not keep up with Mike,” she said. “He worked incredibly hard.”

    Dr. Rawson advises prospective mentors and mentees to agree on areas of focus and set up boundaries for the relationship.

    “Successful mentorship requires a mutual understanding of expectations,” he said. “Not establishing such stipulations early in the relationship increases the possibility that someone will be disappointed.”

    Dr. Rawson said mentoring is very rewarding, especially when he sees former mentees succeeding and doing well.

    “When you mentor someone, you leave an imprint on them that doesn’t go away,” he said. “It’s a long-lasting impact on someone’s career and trajectory.”

    Studies have shown that mentoring pays dividends at an institutional level. According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, (JAMA), faculty with mentors reported improved teaching and clinical care as well as increased career satisfaction. Another study published in Academic Medicine demonstrated increased faculty retention as a result of mentoring.

    “Personally, I think being a mentor makes work more fun and infuses the day with enthusiasm,” Dr. Tanabe said.

    Once established, a strong mentoring relationship is self-perpetuating.

    “Finding a good mentor and being mentored is a gift,” Dr. Regner said. “The only way to pay it back is to pay it forward. I’m very likely to be a mentor in the future.”


    Roetgen Award
    “Dr. Tanabe has taught me what it means to be an academic researcher,” said University of Colorado radiology resident Michael F. Regner, MD, pictured at left with scientific advisor Jody L. Tanabe, MD. Dr. Regner received an R&E funded grant for his research project.

    Edward W. Lee, MD, PhD, left, guided Sarah N. Khan, MD, right, through her R&E-funded research project at UCLA. “Dr. Lee is very knowledgeable and had also received an R&E grant himself, so he knew the process,” she said.