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Dotter Lecture recap: An intentional philosophy 

06-12-2022 16:14

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Hope Racine, SIR TODAY 2022 | Monday, June 13

Mentorship is more than coaching. It’s an intentional philosophy—one that 2022 Dotter Lecturer Riad Salem, MD, MBA, FSIR, highly prioritizes.

In his lecture on Sunday, Dr. Salem focused on the many forms of mentorship and why it’s so impactful.

“Mentorship is a philosophy, an approach, a manner of comporting myself,” Dr. Salem said. “It is something with intangible benefits and has been the most rewarding part of my career, personal satisfaction and opportunities for growth.”

Dr. Salem shared his journey of mentorship, which started at age 14 during a summer French Literature course in Quebec. The student body was largely comprised of non-French speakers and, when he realized there was no translator, Dr. Salem stepped up to help. “For 6 weeks I was a mentor to hundreds of international students, some of whom were twice my age,” he said. “I learned something that summer. I enjoyed teaching and mentoring, and it came naturally to me. I knew it would be my future.”

Mentorship is a spectrum, Dr. Salem explained, one that relies on selflessness. He shared the example of Drs. Michael Debakey and Denton Cooley, who had “the most infamous and longest-lived feud in medical history.” It was the story of ill-will that took mentorship to an adversarial setting, Dr. Salem said, which ultimately limits the potential of each.

In comparison, Dr. Salem pointed to Charles T. Dotter, MD, and Bill Cook. “They were a great match from the start,” he said. “They mentored each other.”

Dr. Salem discussed his own experiences as a mentee, such as when Constantin Cope, MD, FSIR, taught him the intricacies of IR when he was a student and later co-authored a paper with him—Dr. Salem’s first publication. Dr. Salem also discussed his relationship with David Davis, MD, his radiology chair in the 1990s. When Dr. Salem requested time and flexibility to pursue an MBA during his P3 and P4 years, Dr. Davis told him to “get the hell out of my office”—before later approving the request.

“He trusted and believed in me, even though it wasn’t a popular decision among faculty,” Dr. Salem said. “And I think of him often.”

Dr. Davis embodied the spirit of a great mentor, Dr. Salem said, because he didn’t impose guidance, encouraged Dr. Salem to take risks, provided the tools that best fit Dr. Salem’s needs, and he listened. “Even when I couldn’t verbalize my challenges, he understood.”

But mentorship does not have to be between a “senior” or “junior” pairing—or even between you and someone you know, he said. Inspirational mentorship, wherein you are inspired by someone you barely know or are unlikely to meet, is very impactful. So is passive mentorship, which can arise from casual interactions or observation.

“I am passively mentored by a hepatologist I hold in high regard,” said Dr. Salem. “He considers me a colleague, while I see him as a mentor.”

And mentorship can be serendipitous, like the time Dr. Salem found himself seated across the table from Barry T. Katzen, MD, FSIR, as a young IR. “I was a nobody. But Dr. Katzen was welcoming, kind, and made me feel like I belong.” Today, Dr. Katzen will now refer patients to Dr. Salem—proof that mentorship can and should also be reciprocal.

Dr. Salem shared a lineup of his Northwestern colleagues, who he says mentor him every day through a joint mentoring approach. “We all learn from each other, and our skill sets get better, and so our patients benefit.”

Mentorship can happen in any environment, be it personal or professional, and doesn’t exist just within the academic bubble. “If you don’t have students, mentor your techs. And when they become leaders, they will pass on those teachings.”

He urged attendees to understand that mentorship doesn’t even have to be about teaching others to be IRs—it’s about working with others to help unlock their inner potential and drive.

“I am a product of mentorship that has become a way of life,” he said, reiterating that as a mentee, help and openness from others can an immense impact. “Great things can come from small beginnings.”


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