Mentorship: The Price of Membership One of the proudest moments of my career took place when Elena Plante, chair of the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at the University of Arizona, confided in me, “Dr. Rao, your aphasia course is what pushed me to go on for my doctorate.” Thirty years ago, I ... From the President
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From the President  |   August 01, 2011
Mentorship: The Price of Membership
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Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News & Member Stories / From the President
From the President   |   August 01, 2011
Mentorship: The Price of Membership
The ASHA Leader, August 2011, Vol. 16, 24. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.16102011.24
The ASHA Leader, August 2011, Vol. 16, 24. doi:10.1044/leader.FTP.16102011.24
One of the proudest moments of my career took place when Elena Plante, chair of the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences at the University of Arizona, confided in me, “Dr. Rao, your aphasia course is what pushed me to go on for my doctorate.” Thirty years ago, I did not identify myself as her mentor, but indirectly I was so, and am I proud of her career trajectory, departmental leadership, publications, and the model ASHA member she has become.
A speech-language pathologist whom I did seek to mentor was Therese Goldsmith, a Towson University graduate student in the VA in 1980. I saw that Therese was not only mature, highly talented, and organized, but also nice and bright. When I opened the National Rehabilitation Hospital’s (NRH) Speech-Language Pathology Service 26 years ago, she was my first hire. We published and managed together, we matured and grew in the field together, we served ASHA together on task forces and committees; when I moved into administration, she became the director of a speech-language pathology staff of 25.
The short story is that Therese went on to law school, graduated first in her class, became a partner in a prestigious law firm, and then became a Maryland public service commissioner. In June 2011, Gov. Martin O’Malley appointed Therese as Maryland insurance commissioner. What an amazing career path!
I look back over our mentor-protégé relationship and I am struck by its inherent naturalness, ease, and benefits. When you mentor, you are paying it forward and you reap more than you sow. Therese has been a friend, colleague, and confidant for more than 30 years and I am certain that she has mentored others as well.
What is a mentor? The etymology comes from Homer’s classic story in which Odysseus, while on a journey, entrusts his son to the care of Mentor, his trusted friend. In Greek, “mentor” means advisor. Alleman (1982) defines mentoring as “a relationship in which a person of greater rank or expertise takes a personal interest in the professional and personal development of a newer person in the organization or profession and provides experiences for the protégé that have an unusually beneficial impact on the protégé’s career” [Alleman, E. (1982). “Mentoring relationships in organizations: Behavior, personality characteristics, and interpersonal perceptions.” Doctoral Dissertation, University of Akron].
I have mentioned the name of my mentor—David Resnick—several times in my column this year, as I am truly indebted to him. Dave hired me for my first job at the Washington Hospital Center 41 years ago when he did not even have a position and I was just a rookie out of grad school. He coached and cajoled me and sometimes coerced me into being more than I thought I could be.
His red edits on my documentation were sometimes brutal but so spot-on. Dave pushed me out of my job into a VA career and later to my PhD at the University of Maryland. Then he recruited me for my dream job at NRH and again coached, cajoled, and critiqued me to being a better clinician, manager, leader, and friend.
Dave made me see that we can become more by giving back to others, volunteering in organizations such as ASHA and state associations, and having a greater impact on our discipline and professions. I have made a concerted effort in my career to “pay it forward” and give back.
We all stand on the shoulders of giants—Charles Van Riper, Robert West, Dan Boone, Hildred Schuell, Raymond Carhart, Hayes Newby, Marion Downs—names that call up incredible images and stories of our 86-year ASHA history. Who are your giants? Who has helped you in your career? We did not get where we are on our own. We are dependent on drive and determination, but also on luck and mentorship.
So, we need to give back. Write a reference, invite a younger colleague to co-present or publish, encourage your associate to enter a doctoral program, help your protégé network with your colleagues, share an article, or have lunch at convention and tell a story of why ASHA rocks.
I enjoyed ASHA’s Student to Empowered Professional (S.T.E.P.) mentoring program. This year, I mentored Megan Peterson of Arizona State University. We shared stories, interests, literature, and, more importantly, a love of the field.
I hope Megan and all of you interested in mentoring or being mentored will be in San Diego in November. Convention will be packed with mentors, protégés, managers, and many students aspiring to make connections and learn how to make effective communication, a human right, accessible and achievable for all.
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August 2011
Volume 16, Issue 10