Distinguished Teacher Offers Advice on Critical Thinking and Proactive Passion | Cardiology Magazine

Gary Francis, MD, FACC, understands how quietly incidental the path from student to professional can feel when you’re taking your first steps. “I had a football coach that taught kinesiology at my high school,” says Francis. “I had no idea there are things like ergoreceptors, and so I got interested in biology. My teacher in retrospect was very inspiring. I don’t think he knew it at the time but he really turned me on to biology, and I decided medicine might be a good fit.”

Having had a remarkable early career, first as an investigator helping renown scientist Jay Cohn, MD, FACC, establish the critical role of neurohormonal stimulation in heart failure and the therapies to inhibit it, then as the head of clinical cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, Francis now finds himself on the other side of that influential student-teacher dynamic working as a professor of medicine at his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

According to Francis, who was honored with the ACC’s Distinguished Teaching Award at ACC.14 in Washington, DC, one of the best parts of teaching early-career medical professionals is being surrounded by fresh perspectives and new energy. “They can be very inspiring,” he notes. “Since they don’t have a huge knowledge base, they really can ask very direct questions like, ‘How do you know this true?’ And you can’t just say, ‘It’s true because everyone says it’s true,’ you have to find the original source. And they really can stimulate you to challenge the dogma.”

While Francis confides that luck and being in the right place and at the right time will ultimately have a tremendous impact on where his students’ career trajectory will take them, just as it did with his own, the veteran cardiologist still advocates for the influence of proactive passion – pulling together what you love and what you’re good at into something you can do for the rest of your life.

It’s in this area that Francis also says mentors can play a major role. “Early career medical students need mentors,” says Francis. “I cannot overstate the importance of it. Dr. Cohn was my mentor. He means so much to me even now. He’s still doing research, and he’ll probably never stop. He’s highly intellectualized, creative, has great ideas and still gives me good advice. It’s very helpful. You have to have somebody.”

In addition to a mentor, or mentors, Francis also says it’s important for those in the early stages of their careers to surround themselves “with really good people.” A stable community of individuals with similar interests, coupled with a good mentor and an environment where critical thinking is encouraged, is a recipe for success.

The ACC is calling for mentors and mentees to enroll in its new Mentoring Program. Developed by leaders of the Early Career Professional Section as a benefit of ACC membership, the program provides mentees with knowledgeable mentors based on their interest areas or career and professional development needs. The ACC’s online mentoring portal, powered by the HEALTHeCAREERS Network, connects cardiovascular practitioners, researchers and faculty members so they can form relationships that will enhance their skillset and promote intellectual growth. Learn more at ACC.org/Mentoring.

Clinical Topics: Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathies, Acute Heart Failure

Keywords: Mentors, Knowledge Bases, Heart Failure, Students, Medical, Awards and Prizes, Cardiology Magazine, ACC Publications

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