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The Importance of Mentoring in Ophthalmology, Then and Now

A conversation with Jeff Pettey, MD, MBA.

Moran resident Mubarik Mohamed, MD, left, meets with Jeff Pettey, MD, MBA.
Moran resident Mubarik Mohamed, MD, left, meets with Jeff Pettey, MD, MBA.

At the end of his residency at the John A. Moran Eye Center in 2010, Jeff Pettey, MD, MBA, was unsure about the next stop on his career roadmap. He found a mentor in Moran CEO Randall J Olson, MD. Today, Pettey is an associate professor who serves as the institution’s Vice Chair of Education and Co-Medical Director of Moran’s Global Outreach Division.

How did Dr. Olson approach mentoring you about the next step in your career?

Although he knew me reasonably well, Dr. Olson asked about my passions, and he listened. He told me not to sell myself short, keep my options open, and talk to him again in a week.

The next time we met, he proposed a plan. Based on what I had expressed about numerous goals adjacent to ophthalmology, he offered to create a fellowship that would allow me to pursue leadership and global outreach while specializing in cataract surgery. He essentially outlined what my dream career could be, and his support gave me the confidence to believe I could do it.

He was absolutely right. From that day on, I have tried to pay it forward.

After your experience as a mentee and now as a seasoned mentor, what do you consider “best practices” when advising medical students and young ophthalmologists? 

As mentors, we need to remember it’s human nature for students and early-career ophthalmologists to sell themselves a bit short, to lack an understanding of all their capabilities.

The biggest thing mentors can do is help them broad­en their horizons, tap into skill sets they may not even know they have, and be hands-on when it comes to creating a plan.

It takes time. You have to ask the right questions and listen intently instead of thinking you already have the answers. Meet regularly and to make sure you’re a good match. Mentors may change as mentees go in different directions.

Adapted from a presentation given by Drs. Olson and Pettey at the 2021 American Academy of Ophthalmology’s panel on Mentoring in Ophthalmology.