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Life Lessons: 5 Dermatologists Inspired by Mentors


All teachers and mentors instruct; great ones inspire. They find ways to connect, challenge, compel and convince, motivating students to reach goals and make a difference.In their own words, five dermatologists share their appreciation for teachers and mentors who made a lasting impression.

All teachers and mentors instruct; great ones inspire. They find ways to connect, challenge, compel and convince, motivating students to reach goals and make a difference.

Who helped you become the dermatologist you are today? Whose face, what quote, which discussion, whose guidance do you remember most?

In their own words, five dermatologists share their appreciation for teachers and mentors who made a lasting impression:

“An Ombudsman Extraordinaire”

Adam Friedman, MD

I have been very fortunate to have great mentors throughout my career, but to be brief and not overwhelming with all the great advice, insight and experience I have acquired from them, I have three key messages from two of my mentors.

My most influential mentor is my father, Dr. Joel Friedman, a renaissance physician scientist with whom I conduct a great deal of my nanotechnology research. Two very practical and helpful points I recall are (1) If you are going to study something - a disease, a technology, whatever, you should know more about it than anyone else in the room, and (2) highlighting the success of others or sharing your successes as a team victory only breeds more success. I'm not saying he proposed, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team,’” which is nauseating, but rather there is only, "We succeed."

The other mentor who comes to the top of my list of Jedi Masters is Dr. Steven Cohen, chief of Dermatology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Cohen underscored the importance of being an ombudsman extraordinaire for students, fellows, residents and faculty alike. During my time as a resident and faculty member at Einstein, he never hesitated to step up and support everyone in the program, from letters of recommendations to creating career developing opportunities. This is an approach I strive to emulate as much as possible now as a program director at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences with my own residents and students.”

NEXT: Allow yourself to lose a little bit of focus



“Lose a Bit of Focus”

Reena Rupani, MD

I have always been of multiple minds: a deep interest in science, coupled with a passion for music and dance that stoked summers of musical theatre performances. I also have a curiosity about business theory, which motivated an undergraduate degree in economics and a joking-but-serious retirement plan of “cheffing” my own restaurant.

Serious-minded mentors along my path of medical education always cried the same cry: “You must focus, demonstrate a SINGLE-minded dedication, or no one will take you seriously as a physician - and particularly dermatology - applicant. During my internship year at NYU’s Bellevue Medical center, however, I met a peer who sang a different tune: He had entered the match for Internal Medicine, pretty much solidified a spot at Harvard, then dropped out of medicine right before Match Day and entered a PhD program in English Literature at Columbia University. (He had double-majored in English and Neuroscience as an undergrad.) After completing three years and the oral exam component of his graduate degree, he decided to re-enter the medical world while simultaneously writing and defending his doctoral dissertation. A chief residency in Emergency Medicine and successful thesis defense launched a dual academic career in both medicine and literature, and he now runs an undergraduate major at Columbia entitled “Medicine, Literature and Society” while also saving lives in the ER about three times a week.

Dr. Rishi Goyal is a physician recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and also the recent founder/editor of an online health literature blog called “A Department Without Walls.” He does a lot of other things, too, but my point here is that I also found a personal and professional mentor who helped me actualize the idea that we can indeed remain multifaceted and multi-interested as physicians. In fact, maybe allowing ourselves to lose a bit of focus can actually serve to enrich our careers down the road. He supported my interest in Integrative Medicine, and even sparked the idea that writing/editing a textbook of integrative dermatology could be a fulfilling project (next up: a popular press mystery novel, perhaps). I’m extra lucky to have married this peer mentor of mine, and happy that he shares my retirement goals of “cheffing” (the details of which remain to be worked out).


NEXT: Find support, sounding boards


“Find a Supportive Environment”

Sarah Kasprowicz

“Coming out of residency I worked for a large multispecialty group. There was a core group of women physicians there, and we all shared a workroom. They were seasoned, competent, kind and thoughtful clinicians who took the time to mentor and made themselves available to new graduates. One of the best pieces of advice I got was to find a supportive environment for your first job where you can continue to learn and grow. I hit the jackpot with these women and would share that advice with new grads.”


“Valuable Sounding Board”

Akhilesh Srinivas Pathipati, MD

Mentorship was an important part of my experience throughout medical school. One of the people who served as a source of advice and support was Dr. Justin Ko. I got to know him through a project to launch and analyze outcomes for a new telemedicine platform at Stanford. As we worked together, I realized that Dr. Ko had successfully incorporated many of my own aspirations into his career: He was a practicing clinician who simultaneously aimed to improve health outcomes through new technology and hospital leadership. He quickly became a valuable sounding board as I set my short- and long-term career goals, and his guidance has helped inform the opportunities I plan to pursue.

NEXT: Have passion



“Undying Passion”

Joely Kaufman Janette, MD

I have been lucky enough to have many great mentors, and the one quality they have in common is a true undying passion for their field. I have had coaches and high school teachers who inspired me, but my most memorable mentor was Dr. Fredric Brandt. Having passion for what you do, loving your profession, whatever it may be, is vital to success. Fred had a love of science and art, and incorporated both into his dermatology career. I truly respect and admire those who have this kind of "fire,” which drives me to innovate, explore, research and help to advance the field of dermatology in any way I can.


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