Colin Martin, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery, Division of Pediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Selwyn Vickers, MD, James C. Lee Jr. Endowed Chair, Senior Vice President of Medicine and Dean, University of Alabama School of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Colin Martin: What is the best way to build a mentor/mentee relationship with senior leaders that are in attendance at a national meeting?
Selwyn Vickers: I think students and residents and junior faculty need to know that no single mentor will probably meet all of their academic needs. It is important, in your own sphere, to create a mentoring team for yourself. Now the team aspect is such that these mentors may not necessarily communicate with each other unless they are at the same institution or they have agreed to do this. However, it is important to have a diversity of leadership as a part of your mentoring group and having them function as a team to support you is the most optimal way. Returning to the subject of attending meetings, let me reiterate #1 do attend meetings. #2, seek to engage faculty who have similar interests that you want to pursue. Do your homework to learn who might be attending meetings and to understand what their expertise is. Google them, read their CVs, and research their background and interests, then use that information to dialog with them in an intelligent way. Remember to follow up immediately with those you’ve encountered. Follow through is important; sometimes you may have to repeat that. And again, it’s important to have a mentoring team rather than one person in order to cover the full spectrum of your interests as an academic junior faculty member, resident, or student.
Colin Martin: During social events at meetings, what strategies do you use to speak with, network, and engage with several people during a limited time period?
Selwyn Vickers: Again, know as best you can who will be present. Ask people you know if there will there be other individuals who have an interest in your specific area. Doing your homework prior to the event is important, and it’s also important to have a plan. A lot of things do occur organically at these events, but the best opportunities go to those individuals who have done their homework to find out who they need to speak to and have set a plan in place that will allow them to engage and follow up to establish those relationships.
Colin Martin: How did/do you spend your down time (plane rides, time in between sessions, early mornings, evenings) at national meetings both as a resident or junior faculty member and now?
Selwyn Vickers: I enjoy both sports and exercise as well as reading current news and watching movies. It’s typically when I’m on a plane now that I get to see movies. When I was a resident and junior faculty, I usually spent that time completing research projects, following up on papers, as well as preparing talks and presentations. As a senior faculty member now, it’s still a time to catch up on work and papers, but it’s also a time when I enjoy reading current information or new areas relating to my focus of interest in pancreas cancer or leadership. I would add, you do need some time for relaxation and fun – and whatever that is for you, it’s good to build that into your schedule.
Colin Martin: Other than Society of Black Academic Surgeons (SBAS), what other surgical societies have been helpful for your career advancement?
Selwyn Vickers: The Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, the Society of University Surgeons, the Association for Academic Surgery, the American Surgical Association, the Southern Surgical Association, and the Robert Wood Johnson Society. Their meetings have been venues where I have met both senior mentors who have encouraged me as well as colleagues who have partnered with me. I think SBAS stands out as one where the social and academic network has significantly advanced my career.