Toxicologic & Exploratory Pathology Student Information

Trainee’s Perspective

Chidozie Amuzie, TEPSS Post-doctoral Representative:

Today’s biomedical science trainee faces many challenges in an increasingly sophisticated, uncertain, diverse, global environment. In 2004, I arrived in Michigan, from Nigeria, to work with Chinese, Korean, Indian, and American colleagues in a program directed by a Turkish scientist. The expectations were clear (or later made clear): research integrity and productivity, collegial communication, earning a degree in good time, and progressing to a successful career. What is the best way to use my background and talents to best attain these expectations, while remaining almost sane? The answer(s) are rarely found in those research and development seminars that provide free pizza. Mentoring is a process that best approximates the answer, and does not always mean graduate advisor or graduate committee.

According to Wikipedia, “Mentoring is a process that always involves communication and is relationship based, but its precise definition is elusive.” I have seen trainees who feel that their Principal Investigator (PI) is mostly a boss and I have seen PIs who feel that they do not have enough experience or resources to guide trainees in their (always evolving) career path. This is a problem that SOT has attempted to address through different fora at the Annual Meetings and beyond. Lunch with an expert (LWAE) and Mentor Match are two good ways for trainees who feel the need for extra or more suitable mentors. I strongly encourage TEPSS mentors and mentees to use the Mentor Match program, especially when you cannot come to the Annual Meeting. Please see SOT Mentor Match website for details. Relevant seminars are organized during the Annual Meetings and postdoctoral association Webinars, and can also be found on the SOT website. They offer trainees broad principles for a successful career. However, apart from Mentor Match, these general programs do not offer a mentor that seeks to understand a trainee’s peculiarity, and provide person-specific advice with a thorough knowledge of the sub-specialty.

In my view, TEPSS has the best opportunity for mentoring among the seven SOT specialty sections and special interest groups that I have been part of. I wish I had joined TEPSS earlier. The reason(s) are not clear to me but there are two ideas: (1) favorable mentee-mentor ratio and (2) the apprenticeship that produces pathologists. Unlike many places where mentees are competing for attention with mentors, TEPSS has a mentee:mentor ratio of approximately 1:10, making it a haven for mentees (even shy ones). It also seems that many pathologists are products of intense one-on-one mentoring during their job training, graduate training, residency, certification, etc. Their experience with and understanding of the mentoring process might prepare TEPSS members to be excellent mentors. I experienced this as a Ph.D. student at Michigan State University. Dr. Jack Harkema (former TEPSS president) was not my PI but taught me to love pathology and understand the role that it plays in biomedical research and discovery. The value of mentorship within TEPSS is best highlighted by trainee awards that are named after exceptional mentors like Drs. Roger O. McClellan and Charles C. Capen.

For trainees whose research involves any pathology, the time to join and participate in TEPSS is now. You will find mentorship, learn leadership and build a valuable network for your evolving career. For all our senior colleagues who have helped me and other trainees with your experience and advice, we are thankful. Happy 50th Anniversary!

Chidozie J. Amuzie, D.V.M., Ph.D.
Resident/Instructor, Anatomic Pathology,
Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation,
Michigan State University,
4125 Beaumont Road,
Lansing, MI 48910, USA.
Phone: 517.432.3607


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