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Question of the Month

  • Do you think cardiothoracic surgeons should be involved in basic science or translational research? If yes, what is the best way to mentor those starting out?

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  • Who has been your dominant professional mentor? A current colleague, attending surgeon, senior surgeon, or other? In what way do they provide mentorship?

“The biggest mistake would be to select only one mentor.  Your life and career are multifaceted and thus deserves mentorship in many areas.  My mentors range from faculty from medical school, my general surgery residency, research partners, current colleagues etc.  While this may seem a bit daunting to adopt mentors in ALL of these areas, the intent is to cater/nurture all areas of your professional development. Encourage cross-cultivation with senior persons in different departments/ divisions. Most importantly, maintain your mentor relationships from both within and outside of your institution. Advice from someone slightly farther removed can be invaluable in navigating through a difficult area and may draw upon other resources you may not be aware of.  I take solace in the fact that no matter how difficult a situation may seem, there is someone who has done this before and likely made mistakes that I can learn from. One last note, Dr. Eddie Hoover (mentioned in one of the other posts) has also recently adopted me as one of his newest mentees.”
Leah M. Backhus, MD, University of Washington

“One mentor is a rare individual. I remain fortunate to have several mentors.  Friends, family, co-workers, and faculty at all levels provide important mentorship. Professional development is like a time honored painting, and it takes many colors to make that picture beautiful.”
Farah Rahman, MD

“I have had sporadic mentorship and long for a better solution.”
Shanda Blackmon, MD, The Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX

“Dr. Eddie Hoover, a thoracic surgeon at SUNY Buffalo (VA). Dr. Hoover is supportive, critical, honest, direct, and funny.  What more could you ask for in a mentor?  In my short time as an attending, there has been no one so helpful and I don’t even work in his institution.  He is a senior surgeon who seeks out opportunities for junior attendings to succeed, assists with leadership skills, provides critical review of cases, and provides advise.  Most importantly, he is always available.  With Dr. Hoover you know what you are getting, and that’s what is best for you. So, if you ever have the pleasure of making his acquaintance, take advantage of his words of wisdom as you just may end up with a lifelong supporter.”
Yvonne Carter, MD, Georgetown University Medical Center

How much maternity leave should cardiothoracic surgery residents receive?

“Four weeks for an uncomplicated pregnancy/delivery; six to eight weeks for a complicated pregnancy/delivery.”
– Jemi Olak, MD, Kern Medical Center

“The same amount as general surgery residents.”
– Leslie J. Kohman, MD, Upstate Medical University

“As one who had four children during my residency, I feel maternity leave needs to be dealt with as the rest of the world does. Most employers offer up to 3 months of leave time for maternity leave. Women would then have to extend their training to still complete the training requirements. This would have to be well coordinated with the program directors. In the ‘old days’ I took all my vacation for the year (4 weeks) as a lump for maternity leave and finished on time with the rest of my colleagues.”
– Jane Schwabe, MD, Heartland Health, The Heart Center

“Residency is a very difficult time to have a pregnancy. My feeling was that I would be a better provider and parent once my career was established. Friends of mine who do have regular jobs and nannies enjoy their professional and family lives so much more than any other group that I know.”
– Farah Rahman, MD, Albany Medical College

“Two to six weeks, like every other resident.”
– Susan D. Moffatt-Bruce, MD, The Ohio State University


How do we recruit more residents to choose cardiothoracic surgery?

  • We are a small specialty, so we don’t need to recruit huge numbers. BUT we do need to recruit MORE than we currently get to apply and we need to recruit QUALITY. The results of the 2009 match came out this week. There were 94 matches for 118 positions. Even with so many unmatched positions, there were 8 applicants who did not match! Interpret that data as you will, this is clearly a significant problem. The solution must be individual. Attentive mentorship is really key to attracting more and better candidates to our specialty. As women, we tend to be natural mentors, and this shows in the rising numbers of women applying, entering and graduating from thoracic surgery residencies. Only we (surgeons of both genders) can overcome the years of “bad boy” image that thoracic surgeons have acquired, and we need to do it one student, one resident at a time.
    – A.J. Carpenter, UT Health Science Center-San Antonio