No matter the stage in a person’s career, one thing remains clear: mentorship can be a critical segue into the field of infectious diseases. That’s why we feel it’s important to pair experienced ID professionals with trainees who are interested in the field of ID through our IDWeek Mentorship Program, which helps foster meaningful relationships for both mentees and mentors.
Mentees benefit by gleaning important insights from leaders in the field, while mentors earn the satisfaction of supporting a young professional who’s interested in following in their footsteps.
To provide a better understanding of what the IDWeek Mentorship Program entails, we connected with past mentor Jasmine Riviere Marcelin, MD, FACP, FIDSA, assistant professor of Infectious Diseases at University of Nebraska Medical Center, and mentee Virginia “Ginny” Sheffield, MD, who was an internal medicine resident at the University of Michigan at the time of their pairing, to learn more about their experiences in the program. The two were matched during the 2019 IDWeek Mentorship Program.
Both passionate about women in medicine, health equity and medical education, they continue to connect to discuss their careers, families and everything in between. For additional insight on their experiences with the mentorship program, check out this video interview!
Why did you choose to participate in the IDWeek Mentorship Program?
Dr. Marcelin (mentor): The IDSA Foundation mentoring program hadn’t yet been fully developed when I was in fellowship training. I recognized through my own mentors – both at my institution and outside of it – that mentoring is something that is really important in helping a young trainee figure out what a career in ID is going to look like for them.
Another reason I chose to participate is because I never had any mentors who looked like me. I wanted to participate as a mentor so I could provide that experience to students and residents who were looking for somebody who was like them, whether that meant being a woman or a person of color, to help them along that pathway.
Dr. Sheffield (mentee): I chose to participate in the mentorship program because I was going to IDWeek for the first time, and one of my local mentors recommended it. It just sounded like a cool way to get to know someone at an institution outside of my own, so I did it to get some national mentorship within the field of ID, which was the specialty I was considering going into.
Why is it important for those who are interested in ID to have access to leaders in the field to help develop their careers?
Dr. Marcelin: During the COVID-19 pandemic, hopefully the world has recognized that the field of ID is critically important. But over the years, our field has been struggling to recruit people to choose infectious diseases. Having mentors who are excited about the field and who can actively support trainees is important to continue lighting the fire of interest in medical students and residents to choose the field of ID.
For students and residents who come from underrepresented backgrounds, seeing leaders in infectious diseases who look like them is even more important because a huge part of our journey is figuring out whether and how we fit into this world. Seeing people like you who are successful and are leaders is extremely important. That’s one of the reasons why I continue to mentor, no matter how busy I am. People need to see themselves represented in the leaders of their field.
Dr. Sheffield: I’ve already seen the difference that having Dr. Marcelin has made for me, and I’ve already tried to take on that role with students that I work with now by making myself available as a mentor. Going forward, that’s certainly a skill that I hope to hone and do more with.
What has been the most rewarding or helpful part of your relationship so far?
Dr. Marcelin: I mentor a lot of trainees across the spectrum of medical education, and the most rewarding part of all of those relationships is seeing my mentees succeed. I love lifting them up and letting them shine, and then stepping back to watch proudly as others recognize how amazing they are. Dr. Sheffield and I have had a lot of conversations about career choices, our families and honestly, just catching up as friends.
Dr. Sheffield: Dr. Marcelin has been a great role model. She’s just a really cool person who has done really great work, both within ID and within the field of diversity, equity and inclusion. To have a role model like her who has charted a career path similar to some of my own interests has been helpful for me.
She is also a great connector. I met her in person two or three times during IDWeek, and we talked about some issues that breastfeeding moms were having during IDWeek. Dr. Marcelin connected me with someone else who shared a similar interest, and the three of us wrote a paper on that topic that was published in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Dr. Marcelin both inspired and connected me with other people who had shared interests, and it resulted in scholarly outputs.
Dr. Marcelin, did you have any mentors whom you feel influenced your own career in ID? How so?
Dr. Marcelin: I’ve had a few different mentors, but one in particular stands out: Dr. Shanta Zimmer at the University of Colorado. When I started working as a first-year faculty attending, I was nervous. At the same time, I was focused and driven toward identifying my niche in academic medicine. I participated in an inaugural coaching program through IDSA where they paired us with mentors who matched our interests, which is how I met Dr. Zimmer. She pushed me to think about my goals, my values and what I could potentially accomplish, and that was transformative for me. I’ve had many mentors throughout the stages of my career, but she is the one who has made a huge impact on the way that I see myself and what I have to offer clinically and academically.
What would you say to other ID professionals or trainees who are interested in participating in the IDWeek Mentorship Program but who may be hesitant to apply?
Dr. Marcelin: Each mentor-mentee relationship is different, and this program allows you to customize what you have to offer and match that to what the students or residents need. If you are really busy but think you might have time to offer advice to a third-year internal medicine resident on applying to fellowship programs, then that’s doable in a few conversations. If you’re not too busy and would like to guide a student from their first or second year of medical school all the way through their career by forming a long-term relationship, then you can do that too.
You can make this program fit whatever you and your mentee need. I’d encourage potential mentors to think about the impact they can have on students and residents by agreeing to mentor them and by customizing that experience based on what they can offer to trainees.
Dr. Sheffield: I would absolutely recommend this mentorship program to other students and residents without hesitation. I was paired with such a phenomenal mentor who has inspired me to be better at what I do and to take on more in fields that are difficult to work in, including equity, diversity and inclusion. Whenever I have questions, she has been abundantly available and responsive. She has made positive impacts on both my personal and professional life, and I would wish the same for anyone else who is thinking about applying to this program. Dr. Marcelin has been such a phenomenal mentor, and I’m thankful that I participated in the program.
Applications for the 2021 Virtual IDWeek Mentorship Program are now open and close Aug. 18. To learn more about eligibility and requirements or to apply, click here.
Unable to participate? Consider making a donation to the IDSA Foundation so we may continue to provide impactful programs that support the next generation of infectious diseases physicians.