Paul J. Mather, MD, FHFSA is a Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplant Section of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the President of the American Heart Association Great Rivers Affiliate, and is on the Board of Directors of the Heart Failure Society of America. He is also the Chair for the American College of Cardiology International Education Sessions.
Dr. Mather is a frequent presenter at local grand rounds as well as national meetings. He has been awarded multiple teaching awards by his University. His professional memberships include the American College of Cardiology, the American Society of Echocardiography, and the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation, where he is on the Heart Failure Council as well as the steering committee of the Mechanical Circulatory Support Database Committee. He also is a member of the American Society of Transplantation, and the Congestive Heart Failure Task Force of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American College of Cardiology. He was also the Co-Chair for the American College of Cardiology 59th Annual Scientific Sessions in 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the immediate Past-President of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Region of the American Heart Association. He is the author or co-author of many journal articles and book chapters on heart failure, heart transplantation, echocardiography and related topics.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Mather received his doctor of medicine degree from the Temple University School of Medicine. He completed an internship and residency in internal medicine at Temple University Hospital, and remained there to complete a fellowship in cardiovascular diseases.
- Why is mentorship important for a young professional and what should they be looking to gain from a mentor/mentee relationship?
People have asked me quite often about mentorship. The biggest thing that they want to know is what the value of mentoring is as it pertains to their own goals and aspirations. Throughout my career, I’ve strived to build my own advisory panel. Whether it’s in my work or outside of my career aspirations, I have created a group of go-to advisors that help me move forward. Sometimes, this is as simple as bouncing my ideas back-and-forth with these leaders so that I can see a clearer picture of what I may not have comprehended. Other times, it’s getting encouragement and advice on how to take my next steps. These are the benefits of having a mentor. A good mentor can help you create your best self. However, be aware that your mentor is your confidant who gives you direction and options; but at the end of the day, it is you who have to make your own choices. Your mentor isn’t there to tell you whether you should go in one particular direction. You need guidance and that guidance will only help you down the path you choose for yourself.There is something quite wonderful about witnessing one human being selflessly bolstering the creative achievement of another, especially in a culture where it is easier to be a critic than a champion of another, and this is one of the wonderful aspects of seeing a mentorship relationship flourish. I find these bonds to be a mutually beneficial relationship. I think mentorship is a way of blowing quiet but steady wind into the sails of genius. Without getting too metaphorical, this idea probably clashes with our narrow mythology of solitary genius. We do not give enough credit to creative contributions and staunch support of human capital. I think that this support of human capital is a great privilege and it supports what scientist and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clark once said; “the only way to discover the limits of what is possible is to go beyond them into the impossible”.
- What makes a good mentor?
There are many traits that reflect a good mentor. First of all, a good mentor does not take their responsibility as a mentor lightly. They feel invested in the success of the mentee. This requires someone who is knowledgeable, compassionate, and empathetic, and who possesses the attributes of a good teacher. Linked to this teaching ability is excellent communication skills. A good mentor is committed to helping their mentees find success and gratification in their chosen profession, with emphasis on gratification, happiness, and balance. Overall good mentoring requires empowering the mentee to develop their own strengths, beliefs, and personal attributes. A good mentor is willing to share their skills, knowledge, and expertise. They essentially are role models for the mentee. They exhibit an enjoyment in ongoing learning and growth in their field, so anyone who feels stagnant in their field may not be a good role model and mentor. A good mentor will provide good, honest guidance and constructive feedback. A good mentor will evidence respect for colleagues and employees at all levels of an organization, thus reflecting on each individuals value and a good mentor will most importantly help the mentee set personal and professional goals and an appropriate timeline for achievement of said goals.
- How have your own mentors impacted your career?
I think all that I have become, and continue to hope to become, are because of four major aspects in my life: a generous, supportive and very smart wife, uncompromising role-model colleagues, solid mentorship, and plain dumb luck. I have been very fortunate to have great and solid mentorship. My main mentor (Dr. Fred Bove) led me into the field of heart failure and transplantation. He truly is a genius but his greatest attribute is that he is the most decent human being I have ever met in my life. Although he has towering achievements, his greatest example is his innate kindness and decency. He is walking evidence of genius, humanity, and courage rolled into one amazing person. Dr. Bove has influenced so many people that the heart failure and transplant community in Philadelphia (at four academic centers) created the Alfred A. Bove Philadelphia Society of Heart Failure and Transplant to honor Dr. Bove. The four programs and their affiliates meet twice a year to present state of the art research and clinical projects and to have fellowship with each other all because of the influence of Dr. Bove.What counts most in the long arc of adult life is not brilliance or charisma or panache (of which he has plenty), but rather the quality the Romans called ‘gravitas’: patience, stamina, and weight of judgment. The prime virtue in this is courage, because it makes all the other virtues possible and Dr. Bove was a role model of all these virtues.
- In addition to the mentoring that you do with the HFSA, you have your own mentoring group that you work with. Can you tell us a little about that, how it came about, and what you think makes it successful?
I have been a very fortunate person in that I have had wonderful mentors. I have always had people I could go to for almost any issue or question I have had in my professional and personal life. Because of how fortunate I have been, I felt it a duty and an obligation to “pay it forward”. One of the greatest pleasures of my professional life is being a teacher to Students, Residents, and Fellows. It is definitely a symbiotic relationship in which I get as much or more from our interactions as do my mentees. Success of any mentorship enterprise is defined by meaningfulness. A mentor is not a cheerleader (although that can also be a needed role in some instances) but a valued and honest arbiter and judge of information and potential pathways.
- Do you think social media has changed the mentor/mentee relationship and, if so, how?
The immediacy (both a positive and a negative) of current communication venues have improved connections but I significantly worry that 140 or 280 characters are not enough to transmit all the values of mentorship. I think social media gives us a false veneer of knowledge: we think we know each other, but we really don’t. Hopefully we will use the template of social media to reach out to each other; however, I strongly view digital connections for true mentorship suspiciously because it can create false or misleading pretense. The greatest bond in medicine is the human touch and I feel this is also true in mentorship and “blowing wind into the sails of future genius”.
Join the HFSA Mentorship Program!
The Heart Failure Society of America understands the many challenges early career heart failure professionals face every day. To help with those challenges, our Early Career Committee is continuing the One-on-One Mentoring Program that debuted in 2015. This program will match up early career professionals who are committed to a career in heart failure with well-established mentors from different institutions.
The goal of the program is to help early career professionals (physicians, nurses, and pharmacists) succeed as Heart Failure specialists. This multidisciplinary program is open to all early career heart failure professionals (currently in a dedicated heart failure training program or within 7 years of the first faculty appointment) who are current members of HFSA. The program is open to pharmacists, nurses, and physicians. Seniors mentors from the HFSA will be paired with mentees based on their stated goals in the application and the expertise of the mentor.
For more information, visit www.hfsa.org/mentor