It’s Father’s Day and my wife and I were sitting at our dining room table looking out the large picture window while drinking our coffee. We suddenly noticed a very curious thing. It was a large goose running down the sidewalk followed by a much smaller one which looked like it was probably a gosling with fairly new feathers. I couldn’t tell if the larger one was the gander or not but ganders share in protecting and nurturing their young.
I’m going to assume it was a gander with his gosling.
The funny thing was that our street is a fairly long way from water. Was the gander showing his gosling the neighborhood? Was the gander simply lost and leading the gosling in the wrong direction?
Was he trying to run away from the gosling in order to foster a sense of independence in his youngster? If so, he could have just flown away. But there they both were, running like the proverbial silly geese down the sidewalk to God knows where.
It naturally led to musing about my role as a teacher and reflecting on what was probably my last meeting a few days ago with Paul, a talented resident for whom I’ve been more or less a mentor for the past four years, given his interest in Psychosomatic Medicine (PM). Paul is going to a PM fellowship program in Ohio next week. He’ll be moving with his wife and new baby.
I could have been a better mentor and find myself identifying a little with the gander.
But I’m justifiably proud of Paul, and some of you might recall a recent post about him. And I was surprised and touched by his parting gift of a necktie with images of elephants on it. Paul is from Thailand where the elephant is an important symbol of royal power and good luck.
Paul also co-stars with Alex Gamble in a very nice video about how to conduct the Mini-Cog as a part of delirium assessment. I’m proud of Alex, too.
Paul said goodbye. I could not.
Anyway, those are my thoughts about Father’s Day and I hope Paul and all ganders out there have a great time.
I am encouraged by and support any effort to promote access to mentors. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has a Minority Fellowship Program which has been around for almost 40 years. The major emphases are creating opportunities for serving minority populations through networking and mentorship.
“1. I think I would be generally be described as a “go to” person for (insert career here).
2. To become that I had to learn about (insert trials and tribulations here).
3. I would delighted to share all that I know and guide a mentee in (insert career) and (insert trials and tribulations).”
I’ve been thinking about this one. I’m pretty much the “go to guy” so far about the psychiatry consultation service. I say “so far” because we’ve recently hired an extremely talented new graduate from our combined medical-psychiatry residency program. There’s always a faster gun, and he’ll probably be the one. We’re all really proud of him. Anyway, I’ve been a psychiatric consultant for more years than I care to admit, so I have a fair amount of practical experience. So I’ve accumulated some basic pearls I could teach mentees.
Here’s my top ten list of mentor health:
Humility, although I’m not overboard on this particular virtue as many would probably point out.
Flexibility, which you have to acquire any time you collaborate with medically ill patients who happen to have comorbid psychiatric illness or challenging behaviors, physicians outside of psychiatry, nurses, social workers, lawyers, and administrators. And I did mention lawyers, didn’t I?
White hair, which comes in handy when combined with an avuncular or grandfatherly interpersonal style in which taking the one down position is easy, especially into an easy chair which gets you a little bit lower than eye level with the patient.
System savvy, which you absorb after many years, and which can afford lots of practice in avoiding the pernicious traps of roundsmanship and system gaming.
Geezer humor, a teachable and learnable skill which I use to oil many professional squeaky-hinge type situations all over the hospital, which I enjoy immensely and which probably annoys a lot of younger clinicians.
Pseudosenility, an indispensable maneuver in the middle of the night when I’m taking triage call for the Medical-Psychiatry Unit, when whippersnapper resident physicians are trying to off load patients they see as psychiatric who are often just inconvenient.
Thin-slicing ability, which is a term borrowed from Malcolm Gladwell, (Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink : the power of thinking without thinking. New York, Little, Brown and Co.). This is the knack for sizing up a clinical challenge quickly using the minimum amount of information necessary and can include patient characteristics, health care system barriers, and what’s on the menu for lunch.
Speedy slowness (or slow speediness, whichever you prefer), a sense of the need to sit in the chair with a patient and take the time listen to him or her–which usually doesn’t take as much time as I think it will.
Rational dependency, which means letting other professionals help me who know much more about their field than I ever will , and they include clinical pharmacists, physical and occupational therapists, and neuropsychologists, to name only a few.
Strategic grumpiness which, when combined with white air and pseudosenility, often persuades others to let me have my own way.
Well, that does it. I guess I can sit back and let the mentees crash my door, which is locked because I’m often out in the general hospital, working.