Mentorship is a cornerstone for early career cardiologists. Faculty mentors provide valuable guidance during and after training that can lead to a successful academic career. Finding the right mentor is a challenge, however. The relationship may begin and end without clearly defined expectations and needs. Natalija Odanovic, MD, an interventional cardiology fellow, is the first author of a cross-sectional pilot study published June 17 in the American Heart Journal Plus: Cardiology Research and Practice that aims to understand how these differences shape the experiences of cardiology fellows and their faculty mentors.
Early career advancement in academic medicine relies on mentorship. The MENTOR study collected data through an anonymous online survey that was distributed to 71 cardiology trainees and 216 faculty members. Among the 34 faculty respondents, more than half were current mentors.
Elissa Altin, MD, an assistant professor, and senior author of the study, discussed the idea at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) Connecticut Women in Cardiology (WIC) Chapter meeting. With fewer women in academic cardiovascular medicine, it can be difficult for fellows to find female role models.
“We decided to do a project that would bring all the interested women in cardiology from across the state together,” said Altin.
The researchers created a questionnaire to assess overall satisfaction in eight categories including accessibility, research opportunities, and career support. The findings indicated that fellows in general cardiology and subspecialty programs placed the most value on research opportunities, help with job search and professional contacts in the field. The authors noted that there were no differences in expectations and satisfaction with mentorship among fellows or mentors based on gender.
“In doing this survey study, I have learned that most fellows have one primary mentor and several other co-mentors. This is reflected in my path through cardiology. For me mentorship came from many different sources. It started with our program directors — Dr. Edward Miller and Dr. Parul Gandhi— who have been extremely supportive of my every effort and pointed me in the right direction time after time,” said Odanovic.
Most fellows who completed the survey had a relationship with a mentor by the end of their first year of training. Also, fellows reported that having a relationship with their mentor helped them to achieve professional goals.
“The most surprising finding was the trainees put less value around work-life balance help and clinical mentoring than their mentors thought and instead valued publications and help finding a job,” said Altin.
The authors added that open communication to align priorities could improve the satisfaction and productivity of the relationship.
“Mentorship can come from more senior fellows as well: when I was a first-year fellow, Dr. Samit Shah, at the time an interventional cardiology fellow, was a major influence in my choice of interventional cardiology as a career. I am now training with our amazing interventional cardiologists from the Yale New Haven Hospital Saint Raphael Campus and VA Connecticut Healthcare System cath labs, and I am trying to absorb all their knowledge and skill. Finally, Dr. Elissa Altin mentored me throughout this research effort and taught me about being methodical, persistent, and open to collaboration,” Odanovic added.
WIC ACC Conference
Altin hosted the 2021 ACC Connecticut WIC Chapter Meeting on May 22. The conference is now available on YouTube.