The Holy Grail

Dr Andrei Solomatin talks about his mentor, his father Igor, who guided him silently from childhood to a career in ophthalmology

Andrei Solomatin

Posted: Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dr Andrei Solomatin (left) with his father Dr Igor Solomatin

Mentor is the name of the character from Odyssey, written by Homer in the 8th Century. Mentor served as an adviser or teacher to Odysseus’s son, Telemachus.

As for me, I grew up in the medical family and followed the footsteps of my father Professor Igor Solomatin, who is an ophthalmologist. I remember myself in ophthalmology from the 6th grade. I’ve spent hours and hours in the surgery room, watching my father doing his job, and dreaming that someday, someone will teach me how to treat people like my father does.

So, in 2008 I went to a medical school, to find my mentor there, but six years went by and I didn’t find that “someone” who would open the holy grail in medicine for me.

But I didn’t give up, because I knew that the residency was up ahead and I would definitely find my mentor there. A couple of years went by. I learned a lot in ophthalmology, but I still could not find the person who I could look up to.

But all those years I had been working with my father shoulder to shoulder in the operating theatre. He was not teaching me but definitely mentoring me, without me realising it. This is what makes a great mentor.

The Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho was a genius during his professional career. He played football so easy and so fluently.

When he had the ball at his feet, he made his dribbling look so easy, but in reality, what he was doing is hardly even possible for most other professional footballers.

The great musician Prince once performed a guitar solo on the song ‘While my guitar gently weeps’. This is the greatest guitar solo I have ever heard, but Prince hardly even looks to the strings while playing this masterpiece.

Again, like Ronaldinho, he was playing so naturally and effortlessly that some musicians might think that what he is doing is easy. But it isn’t. The same attributes apply to a great ophthalmological mentor. He or she must not only help develop residents’ surgical and medical skills but also give advice in all aspects of everyday life.

If your mentor can do this without you even noticing it, if his ideas and advice are so useful in your daily routine that you think that they’re your own ideas, then your teacher knows the art of mentoring.

That is what my father did, and I will be forever grateful to him.