Calling All Leaders: SCAI's Emerging Leader Mentorship Program

Back when I was a fellow, my mentors were physicians who masterfully waded through the seas of clinical care, research and education, always able to remain focused on all three visions simultaneously. Historically, such physicians set the benchmark for academic excellence and national leadership. Somewhat naively, I set about my career firmly intent on following in their esteemed footsteps, hoping to make my own contribution to the field. But how does one do this? I quickly learned that planning an academic career is not as easy as one may think, and the biggest lesson of all was that you cannot do it alone. Sure, I had drive, energy, and enthusiasm; and I had a firm grasp of the literature and knew that I was trained well. But, to succeed at the national level you need more; you need mentors, a vision to develop your own niche despite the accumulating clinical work, and both institutional and personal support. As I looked around at my colleagues who graduated from my own and similar towers of academia, very few were able to “make it” in the national scene or even as regional leaders and experts, and one by one they began falling. Some decided it wasn’t for them, while others eventually just gave up. This was disappointing to me, as so many of them had tremendous potential, in some cases far exceeding what I thought of my own. The problem is that it is not clear how to succeed in today’s environment, and thus success is a trial and error process. The things that worked in years past, such as taking your time to develop a niche and continuing to publish until you’re “established,” no longer apply because the demands of clinical care have never been greater and resources to support academics never so limited. Dedicated academic time is virtually nonexistent, whether you are at an academic, hybrid-academic or private practice setting, where clinical volume is now paramount. Somehow, I pushed myself onto the national scene, supported by mentors I already had and found along the way, some from within industry. And I thank you all. The few other early career folk I see on the national scene have likewise found their way through trial and error. It struck me that it shouldn’t be this tough or this random. We need to keep the pipeline of leaders going, and we need to actively support and even tailor their development. The Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) is embarking on an ambitious mentorship program for emerging leaders 3–7 years out of training. The program will select 10–15 individuals based on a variety of qualities, including personal character and potential in clinical care, research, education and advocacy, and give them the resources over a four-year period to become national leaders. They will be paired to nationally-renowned experts as dedicated mentors, develop a comprehensive career plan individualized to their own abilities and subject to ongoing review, assigned national committee appointments and speaker engagements, participate in a dedicated symposium on presentation, public speaking and advocacy skills, and given the financial resources to achieve these ends. I am very excited to be part of this upcoming endeavor, which will be prioritized within SCAI, running the Program alongside Drs. Bill O’Neill and Mark Turco. With time, perhaps we can actively change the rules of the game and help shape the future of our field in the process. Dr. Srihari S. Naidu is Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, Interventional Cardiology Fellowship Program and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center at Winthrop University Hospital on Long Island.