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Honoring Mentors

HMS celebrates dedication to students, residents and trainees

Excellence in Mentoring Award recipients (from left) Mary Bouxsein, James Perrin, Kathryn Rexrode, Mark Albanese, Roger Davis, Joseph Arboleda-Velasquez, Matthew Waldor, Patricia D’Amore, Rochelle Walensky, Frederick Alt, James Zuckerman, Aaron Kesselheim, Francisco Quintana, Brittany Seymour, Sara Toomey and Andrea Ciaranello with (front row, from left) HSDM Dean Bruce Donoff and HMS Dean Jeffrey Flier. Image: Jeffrey Thiebauth

They came from surgical suites or pediatric offices. Their expertise is in genetics or statistics. They’ve spent a lifetime in medicine or they’re just starting their careers. 

They share an unwavering dedication to mentoring others.

They are the 18 exemplars of selfless dedication to students, residents and trainees who were honored by Harvard Medical School at the 2015-2016 Excellence in Mentoring Awards ceremony.

Held on May 23 in a standing-room-only TMEC amphitheater, the 20th annual event drew family, friends and colleagues from across the Quad and affiliated hospitals. 

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“The best accolade a mentor can receive is the recognition of the role he or she has played in the academic and career development of their trainees and peers,” Joan Reede, HMS dean for diversity and community partnership, said in welcoming remarks.

“It is through these awards that we honor those who have made significant contributions to the professional, and sometimes personal, development of many of our faculty, trainees and students,” she said.

This year, Reede’s office received 347 nominations for 160 mentors. To a person, the winners expressed gratitude to their own mentors, who they said had indelibly shaped their own careers.

Gratitude

Joseph Arboleda-Velasquez, HMS assistant professor of ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute, thanked his mentors as he accepted one of eight Young Mentoring Awards.

He singled out Patricia D’Amore, the Charles L. Schepens Professor of Ophthalmology at Mass Eye and Ear/Schepens and HMS professor of pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, who herself received one of three lifetime achievement awards later in the program.

“I can only wish to be as good as they were to me,” Arboleda-Velasquez said about D’Amore and other positive role models. “But you know, I am still young.”

Brittany Seymour, assistant professor of oral health policy and epidemiology at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, came to the podium with her daughter in her arms to receive a Young Mentoring Award. She praised her mentee, saying it is “such a privilege to call her my mentee and now a colleague.”

Alexander Tsai, HMS assistant professor of psychiatry at Mass General, brought his young son to the podium, too, as he thanked the people who nominated him for a Young Mentor Award.

“I didn’t really recognize myself in a lot of the letters people had sent in,” Tsai said, because his mentees “make it easy to do what I do.”

First mentors

The seven faculty members honored with A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Awards took the opportunity to reflect on their professional lives midcareer.

Like others, Mark Albanese, HMS assistant professor of psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance, thanked his mentors and parents. Then he pointed out his “first mentor,” his 92-year-old mother, who waved back to him from the last row of the amphitheater. 

Kathryn Rexrode, HMS associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and another Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award winner, said mentoring has been one of the most fulfilling parts of her career.

“It is the most tremendous honor to be recognized for doing something you love,” she said. “Mentorship has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my academic career.”

Rochelle Walensky, HMS professor of medicine at Mass General, praised the talent, intelligence and compassion of her world-class crew and commented on the two-way street” of mentorship.

“We would not be who we are or achieve what we achieve without all of you,” Walensky said about her team.

Spotting talent

In addition to D’Amore, two other people were honored with lifetime achievement awards: Frederick Alt, the Charles A. Janeway Professor of Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital and HMS professor of genetics, and James Perrin, HMS professor of pediatrics at Mass General. 

Alt said he learned from his mentors how to spot talent and then support it.

“Mentoring is really easy when you work with really highly motivated people who are so bright but are also great inside and outside the lab,” he said.

D’Amore said “mentor” wasn’t yet a word used to describe the help she received early in her career. She said she thought perhaps it was a new usage until her own recent research revealed that Mentor was a (helpful) character in “The Odyssey.”

 “I love seeing somebody come into my lab who is new and untrained and really as green as I was, but with passion for science,” she said.

After alluding to the high quality of people entering the medical profession at HMS, Perrin had specific thanks and praise for one mentee, Jonathan Winickoff, HMS professor of pediatrics at Mass General, who presented him with the award.

“Jon has had a remarkable impact on the exposure to tobacco worldwide,” Perrin said about Winickoff’s work studying secondhand smoke and other environmental effects of tobacco. “That is the kind of value you get out of being a mentor.”

In closing, Reede thanked HMS Dean Jeffrey S. Flier and HSDM Dean Bruce Donoff, directing special words to Flier, who is stepping down as dean in July to return to research and faculty work.

“I want to say a very personal and public thank-you to Dean Flier for supporting our work across the board,” she said. “You’ve made an amazing difference to us being successful. Thank you.”

Young Mentor Award

Joseph Arboleda-Velasquez, HMS assistant professor of ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute
Andrea Ciaranello, HMS assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital
Aaron Kesselheim, HMS associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Daniel MacArthur, HMS assistant professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital
Francisco Quintana, HMS associate professor of neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Brittany Seymour, HSDM assistant professor of oral health policy and epidemiology
Sara Toomey, HMS assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital
Alexander Tsai, HMS assistant professor of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital

A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award

Mark Albanese, HMS assistant professor of psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance
Mary Bouxsein, HMS associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Roger Davis, HMS associate professor of medicine (biostatistics) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Kathryn Rexrode, HMS associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Matthew Waldor, the HMS Edward H. Kass Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Rochelle Walensky, HMS professor of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital
James Zuckerman, HMS assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

William Silen Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring Award

Frederick Alt, the Charles A. Janeway Professor of Pediatrics and HMS professor of genetics at Boston Children’s Hospital
Patricia D’Amore, the Charles L. Schepens Professor of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute and HMS
James Perrin, HMS professor of pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital