Feedback Loops: Lessons from my mentors shape my own career goals

As I progress through the MSTP, I have realized that this journey (and this career path as a whole) is one full of ups and downs. Many things went differently than I had hoped in my second year of the program, but there has been one undeniable positive: I have been surrounded by some of the very best mentors in the world at UAB.

I have quickly learned that the wisest thing I can do as a student – especially when things don’t quite go as planned – is to turn to others for guidance and help. There is so much we can learn from our textbooks or lectures within medical school, yet there may be even more that we can discern from “studying” the work of those who have already achieved so much success. Two physician scientists were particularly incredible role models for me through the tougher times this year, and by watching them, I have learned more about the type of physician (and person) I wish to become.

Here’s what I noticed in my most influential mentors:

  1. They communicate well – prompt and detailed, with frequent double-checks to make sure both sides have the same understanding.
  2. They are organized.
  3. They give back by training/mentoring and by serving the community, especially those who are disadvantaged.
  4. They treat every encounter like a chance to learn.
  5. They ask questions – not to trap or intimidate, but to better understand.
  6. They empower trainees and advocate for them, even when it means opposing traditional hierarchical structures in science or medicine.
  7. They request feedback and are open to new ideas.
  8. They choose responsibilities wisely (which sometimes means saying “no”) so that they can give each task their full attention.
  9. They do most of their work behind the scenes.
  10. Perhaps above all, they care. For a student in a tough time, this alone can make all of the difference.

This list summarizes some of the things my mentors did that truly made an impact on me and that I found inspiring… And as a result, it has also come to serve as a list of goals that I will strive towards in my own career/life. I can only hope that I continue the feed-forward chain of mentorship and that my future students say even a few of the same things about me someday.

Thank you to those who go far beyond their job descriptions to make lasting impacts on students’ lives!

-Emily Hayward


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