April 4, 2022
On Mentoring: Sangeetha Isaac
By Sangeetha Isaac, MD
Sangeetha is a second year Internal Medicine Resident at North Alabama Medical Center, Florence, Alabama.
My First Mentor
July 2011, India.
I went to the Department of Medical Oncology looking for my professor. Through the door I could see him, seated at his desk, reading something on his desktop. I hesitated a moment, thinking. I do not have an appointment to meet him. He is the Chief. Should I still go in? After telling myself it was alright to meet without a prior appointment, I said, “Excuse me, Sir, may I come in?” He turned around, looked at me, and smiled. “Yes Sangeetha, please come in!”
I went in, made myself comfortable, and started speaking while he was still looking at me, not knowing why I was there. “Sir, I have thought about this a lot. I am interested in Oncology and would like to pursue a career in Oncology,”’ I said. He was still looking at me, nodding his head without interrupting. I continued after a brief pause. “I came to seek your advice on how to proceed.” There it was! I had just identified the need for a mentor and spotted the right one.
I had rehearsed a few conversations in my mind. I thought he would say something like, “You have to study hard, be an outstanding physician,” etc. But, instead, he said, “You have to make your work do the talking.” I was perplexed. How do I do that? How do I make my work do the talking? I left his office that day with these thoughts.
The next day, I went to work and made sure my work spoke of my interest in oncology for the next 15 months that I spent in the department. I signed to be the research officer in medical oncology, taking the responsibility of co-investigator on five different multicentre clinical trials, while I was actively involved in oncology-related clinical work and preparing for the post-graduate examination.
Fast forward to March 2013. I received an offer to relocate to Singapore to work for the Ministry of Health Holding, Singapore. This was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make. Leaving the comfort of the known and venturing into a world of the unknown. I met my mentor again to ask if this was the right decision. He looked up and smiled. “This is your life, and you get to live it once,” he said. I instantly knew what I should do.
March 2022, USA.
After a 7-year stint in Singapore, now a resident physician in the United States, I am more familiar with the culture of mentorship. I know the importance of identifying the right mentor and know that mentorship is crucial for professional development and success. I have had several mentors from then till now, who have advised me, guided me, supported me, and placed me on the trajectory to success in professional life. But the words of my first mentor still resonate in my mind every single day and have become my mantra: “Make your work do the talking!”
A friend is someone who tells you what you want to know
A mentor is someone who tells you what you need to know!