Should You Have a Mentor, a Sponsor, or Both?

Dr. Geraldine McGinty This is a guest blog post by imaging and informatics thought leader, Dr. Geraldine McGinty. Dr. McGinty was Chair of the ACR’s Commission on Economics and the radiology member of the AMA’s Relative Value Update Committee from 2012-2016. In May 2016, she was elected as the Vice Chair of the ACR’s Board of Chancellors, the first woman to hold this office. She was until 2013 Managing Partner of a 70 physician multispecialty medical group on Long Island. In 2014, she joined the faculty at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. 


As I progress in my career I’m more often on the sell side of mentoring and sponsoring than the buy side, but that wasn’t always the case.

A chance meeting led to my next career move from a well intentioned sponsor. “I teach at Mike Porter’s Healthcare Strategy Course at Harvard Business School. It would be really good for you and I will write you a recommendation.” That was Tom Lee, Chief Medical Officer at Press Ganey when we met. Sure enough, a focus on how strategic thinking underpins the highest performing health care delivery systems influenced my most recent career move. I recently became Chief Strategy Officer for my organization. Applying for this role might never have made it past my subconscious without that intensive exposure to healthcare strategy in Boston, including some great teaching from Tom.

Even today, I add to my network all the time and I maintain it like the precious resource that it is. Every so often someone will emerge whose expertise and experience feel particularly inspiring and typically those impressive people are generous in sharing. Even better are those who take the next step and act as sponsors.


The Opportunity to Just “Do”
I realize I’ve been fortunate to have more sponsors than mentors. So what’s the difference? While mentors and sponsors serve different purposes, their end goal is the same: to help you achieve your goals. Mentors are an ongoing source of advice, guidance and inspiration. You might have a specific mentor at your workplace, one from earlier on in your career who helped shape and mold your career trajectory, or different mentors at specific times serving different needs.

Sponsors, on the other hand, advocate for you in the workplace and beyond. Often in conversations behind closed doors that you may not yet be part of. They make the right connection or suggestion at the right time for you to take action. They enable and lift you up to a new opportunity and shorten the time it takes for you to get to the next level.

Women are often subject to well-intentioned commentary on what they “should” do. Far more often I’ve been given the opportunity to just “do”. Steve Amis, my Chair at Montefiore, told me he’d submitted my name to the ACR as a “farm team” volunteer in 2001. Fast forward that involvement to more than a decade later when I will become the first woman to be Chair of that same organization in 2018.


Launching RADxx for Women Leaders in Radiology and Informatics
So how does one “pay it forward” when you’re fortunate enough to have had others help you build a fulfilling career path? One initiative that does just that is RADxx (or RAD Women).

In developing the RADxx initiative with Mini Peiris, Chief Marketing Officer at Ambra Health, a key goal was to provide mentors and sponsors for women in the male dominated world of imaging informatics. Both of us come to this initiative having been fortunate to have had effective sponsors and mentors (Mini’s perspective here). And we wanted to create an environment that sparked more of these sponsorship opportunities for emerging women leaders in informatics and digital health.


Take Action!
If you’ve read this far, join our upcoming RADxx tweet chat on May 11, 2017 at 4 PM Eastern Time where we’ll be discussing this topic of sponsors, mentors and more. Search on #RADxx in Twitter to be part of the discussion.

And for the leadership in imaging informatics, take this as a call to action to join the RADxx LinkedIn Group and actively serve as sponsors to RAD women. Assign these talented and energetic informatics leaders of the future to committees and projects. Invite them to speak on panels and at conferences.

If Mini and I are anything to go by, your investment will pay off in multiples.


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