A sudden attack of teaching
Joséphine Behaegel, 2018 winner of the John Henahan Writing Prize, describes how her mentor came into her life
Joséphine Behaegel, 2018 winner of the John Henahan Writing Prize
It was another day in the OR during one of the first months of my residency, when the ophthalmologist I was following that day decided we should take a coffee break. Not even a minute later she spontaneously started to ramble about the differences between intraocular lenses while scribbling on a napkin in the coffee room of the operating theatre.
Surprised by this sudden attack of teaching, I was questioning myself uncomfortably “Does she want anything from me?” “Should I keep this napkin?” I wasn’t used to this approach and felt fairly stupid since I could barely answer to any of the questions. At the same time, however, this random improvised teaching-on-a-napkin moment awakened my curiosity. That evening I cracked open my Kanski and I dove into the Lens chapter.
Triggered by this ophthalmologist, Sorcha Ní Dhubhghaill, and her napkin, I tried to seize more opportunities to work under her supervision. I soon discovered that she had a passion for sharing knowledge with everyone who wants to be taught… and even some who don’t.
She organises weekly teaching sessions for residents on early Friday mornings or during weekend days no matter how hard the week was, while she could easily use this free time pursuing her own career goals or spending it with her husband. She has an impressive knowledge, loves to discuss cases and is accessible to the residents… All ingredients for a great mentor! And on top of that she has a sense of humour and likes dogs!
But mentoring is a two-way street. It needs commitment from both sides. Her deadlines must be honoured, administration must be completed, start times must be adhered to and patients must be handled with the greatest care.
Every trainee who is lucky enough to have a mentor during his or her residency will recognise its value and having a mentor is not a given. While as a resident you must run your own race, mentors can be a coach. They understand where you are in your training programme and are there to infuse you with new energy when you’re slowing down or lacking motivation. (More than once) I have had miserable days, particularly when I’m combining my training with clinical research. Tempers and adrenaline can be high and I start to wonder why I didn’t open a flower shop instead.
In these moments, having a mentor pulls me through and reminds me what I have accomplished so far. So I highly recommend getting a mentor; just don’t take mine, I need her.