Mentorship: The Conduit of Perseverance

Every neurosurgeon, at some point, made the complex decision to pursue a career in neurosurgery. Making this decision demands many of the same virtues that continue to show in their clinical careers. Among these virtues is one to which I can personally attest, perseverance.

When I started my first year of medical school at Drexel University College of Medicine, I was surprised to find that there was no AANS medical student chapter. There was no forum in which I, or any of my interested classmates, could begin pursuing a career in neurosurgery. In an effort to establish such a forum, I reached out to the chair of Drexel’s neurosurgery department at Hahnemann Hospital, Erol Veznedaroglu, MD, FAANS. I presented my idea of starting an AANS chapter and, without any hesitation, he provided me with his full support. I spent time throughout the rest of the year working with Dr. Veznedaroglu, the dean of student affairs and my classmates developing our new chapter into an organization that we are proud to have helped establish. Over 100 Drexel students at varying stages of their medical school careers were taking advantage of student chapter’s array of research, shadowing, networking and mentorship opportunities. However, that following summer, I was in absolute disbelief when I found out that Hahnemann Hospital would be closing.

In the wake of the loss of our flagship clinical site, many of Drexel’s clinical interest groups lost their mentors and were struggling to provide their members with clinical exposure. For me, I worried that all the time I had spent establishing our AANS chapter was for nothing. In the midst of this uncertainty, Dr. Veznedaroglu continued to show his support by providing our chapter with new and diverse sites for clinical exposure. I was amazed by how strongly he continued to advocate for us during this difficult time. Further, Dorian Kusyk, MD, a resident of the neurosurgery department of Alleghany Health Network, reached out to us with a plethora of research opportunities, hands-on clinical skills training and mentorship opportunities for our chapter members. This additional support provided by Dr. Kusyk, along with Dr. Veznedaroglu’s continued backing, made me understand an important aspect of the mindset of a neurosurgeon: mentorship.

The neurosurgeon’s clinical career is hectic, yet time for mentorship always seems to be available. Likely, their own personal experience has led them to understand that mentorship allows for interested medical students to persevere on paths towards neurosurgical careers. Dr. Veznedaroglu explicitly remembers how important the support of his AANS chapter was in reaching his position today and is willing to pay it forward.

“Mentorship is incredibly important in Neurosurgery, both for support and guidance in a very intense period of growth as a young neurosurgeon. My personal mentor, Dr. Nick Hopkins, was the reason I chose not only neurosurgery, but vascular and endovascular neurosurgery.”

— Dr. Erol Veznedaroglu

Mentorship plays an important role in all fields, and this is a role that individuals in the field of neurosurgery perform incredibly well. Whether it be through neurosurgeons at their home institution or through the AANS mentorship program with a neurosurgeon miles away, I would encourage any interested medical student to reach out for mentorship, because this is a field in which they will not be disappointed.

To see the article in AANS Neurosurgeon: Volume 28, Number 4, 2019, click here.

Joshua T. M. Lucas,

AANS Student