Diverse Perspectives (Part 3): Immigrants Bring a Unique Perspective to Mentoring Trainees | MUSK

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Editor’s Note: Immigrants significantly affect many aspects of our daily lives. The following series of stories highlights the contributions of a talented group of MUSC researchers. This is the third part. Read the first part here. Read part two here.

Movies often highlight the important role coaches play in helping and motivating their athletes.

Take “The Karate Kid” for example. Mr. Miyagi, a karate master from Okinawa, Japan who emigrated to the United States, takes a young karate student, Daniel, under his tutelage. Through many seemingly arbitrary tasks – waxing a car, painting a fence, sanding a patio – Mr. Miyagi slowly teaches Daniel karate. Mr. Miyagi took his role as a teacher seriously: “We are making a sacred pact. I promise to teach you karate; you promise to learn.

And just like film actors, college mentors also play a central role in helping and teaching their interns throughout their studies.

“Mentorship doesn’t end when they leave the lab; it continues. And that’s great because they end up becoming your peers.

– Dr Federica del Monte

A good mentor teaches a person how to think, not what to think. A good mentor provides a brain to choose, an ear to listen and a nudge in the right direction. A good mentor allows a mentee to see a possible future and believe that it can be achieved. Two MUSC researchers, featured below, are known for their excellent mentorship.

Everyone needs a personal trainer
The journey of Shikhar Mehrotra, Ph.D., in the United States began under unique and distressing circumstances. He was due to arrive from India for a postdoctoral fellowship on September 14, 2001, just three days after the terrorist attacks on American soil. Despite her worry, Mehrotra boarded an almost empty plane and began the next leg of her scientific journey. His advisor met him at the airport in Hartford, Connecticut, and helped him ease his transition to life in the United States.

Entering the United States and starting a new life under such unique and frightening circumstances could have made Mehrotra’s postdoctoral research career very difficult. But her mentor took the time to make sure her transition went as smoothly as possible, even helping Mehrotra find an apartment. Her mentor’s sincere dedication to her success allowed Mehrotra to flourish in her new adventure. Throughout his postgraduate training, he maintained a positive relationship with his mentor and learned the value of expert training and mentorship.

Today, Mehrotra holds the Cecilia and Vincent Peng Chair in Melanoma and Skin Oncology and is Associate Scientific Director of the MUSC Cell Therapy Center.

Simply put, his lab studies T-cell immunotherapy and cancer. This is a difficult area because, although T cells can kill cancer cells, the tumor has several strategies to inhibit their activity. To overcome this, he and his team aim to help T cells survive longer in the tumor to kill more cancer cells and provide T cells with the ability to use a different energy source than cancer cells. By increasing the properties of T cells, the Mehrotra laboratory hopes to identify potential new therapies.

“The important thing is that we want to bring our results to the clinic,” Mehrotra said. “And that’s what we’re all in there for and what keeps us motivated.”

Dr Shikhar Mehrotra is Professor and Cecilia and Vincent Peng Chair in Melanoma and Skin Oncology.

Mehrotra’s positive experience with her mentor, especially under such difficult circumstances, taught her the value of good mentoring and instilled in her a willingness to train her diverse research team in the same way.

“Everyone looks at things differently and brings a unique perspective – a different thought process – based on their journey,” Mehrotra said. “It’s always good to have different eyes and opinions on the same issue. “

Diverse perspectives bring a wide range of strengths to the team. For example, team members differ in their technical background and skills in resource use and planning. But a diverse team also requires different mentoring approaches for candidates from different backgrounds and backgrounds.

Mehrotra believes that offering diverse training experiences and opportunities is essential to pushing its students to do better. But it’s important to understand how far and how fast you can push them. Mehrotra’s mentoring philosophy and pioneering research have opened many doors for its interns, both in the United States and abroad.

“If I don’t invest in my students, I’m going to hinder their growth, and I don’t want to do that.

Lead with your heart
International education is one of the many assets that immigrants bring with them to the United States, and Federica del Monte, MD, Ph.D., professor and director of the Christie Heart and Brain Center and the Human Heart Biobank of the Division of Cardiology, brings a wealth of experience in this regard. Born in Italy, del Monte completed her medical studies at the University of Rome, with a specialization in cardiology, and then obtained her doctorate. from the Imperial College of Science and Technology in London, United Kingdom

After graduation, she returned home to Italy as a clinical cardiologist, working in Italian public hospitals for five years, but ran into an obstacle there.

“At the time, being a woman cardiologist in Italy was a bit difficult. I had reached the highest level I could aim for in my country, ”said del Monte. “The research was also difficult to do. I was given the opportunity to come to the United States, and although I was an attending physician in Italy, I started again as a postdoctoral fellow in a lab in Boston.

After 20 years in Boston, she was recruited to MUSC in 2017 by Thomas Di Salvo, MD, Head of Integrated Center of Clinical Excellence for Heart and Vascular System. Together, they created a brain-heart center, where they study the relationship between heart failure and neurodegenerative diseases. The heart is easier to study than the brain and provides a window into how the brain works. By merging the knowledge gained from both organs, del Monte is able to research potential cures for these chronic and debilitating conditions.

Dr del Monte seated on a bench in the park.
Dr Federica del Monte is professor and director of the Christie Heart and Brain Center and the Human Heart Biobank.

“As a clinician you are treating one patient at a time,” she said. “As a scientist, you can deal with them all at the same time. “

Her proven philosophy is just one of the many pearls of wisdom Del Monte shares with those she mentors in her lab. She believes that one of her most important jobs is training the next generation of scientists and physicians, also instilling in them the value of working with a diverse research team. A career spent collaborating with colleagues around the world who exchange ideas that represent multiple perspectives has informed her of the importance of inclusion in the world of research.

This concept is the one that its trainees take out of the laboratory and into the professional world with them. She knows this because she maintains close relationships with her interns, wherever their travels take them.

“Mentorship doesn’t end when they leave the lab; it continues. And that’s great because they end up becoming your peers.

Standing in your corner
People sometimes say that there are no bad students, only bad teachers. But the mentor-mentee relationship is a two-way street, and the more both sides add to the relationship, the stronger it will be, according to Mehrotra and del Monte. It is with this approach that scientists and trainees embark on a long learning journey.

At the end of “The Karate Kid”, during the tournament, Daniel begins to doubt himself, and Mr. Miyagi reassures Daniel that he is well prepared:

Daniel: “I don’t know if I know karate well enough.

Mr. Miyagi: “I feel good. ”

Daniel: “You really know how to make a guy feel confident. ”

Mr. Miyagi: “You trust the quality of what you know, not the quantity. “

The bottom line is that for interns, having a good mentor like Mehrotra or del Monte or even a Mr. Miyagi – someone perpetually in their corner – makes it easier and more enjoyable to achieve their science goals and dreams, especially when they start to have doubts about themselves.


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