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Welcome to The Medicine Mentors interview series. Our mission is to create a platform for top physician mentors to share key insights, traits and best practices based on their experiences to guide medical students and residents.

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Jan 28, 2021

Kimryn Rathmell MD is the Physician-in-Chief at Vanderbilt Hospital, the Cornelius Abernathy Craig Professor of Medicine & Biochemistry and Chair of the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Rathmell completed her Medical school and Ph.D. in biophysics at Stanford University, completed internal medicine training at the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, and completed a medical oncology fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania. A genitourinary oncologist, Dr. Rathmell’s clinical practice and research lab focuses on renal cell carcinoma. She has held leadership roles in the American Society of Clinical Oncology and is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigators, where she has served as the immediate past President and an associate editor for the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

As Physician-in-Chief at Vanderbilt Hospital, Dr. Kimryn Rathmell often reviews patient feedback and how patients perceive “a great doctor.” Part of it has to do with whether the physician’s advice led to improvement in their condition and clinical outcome. “It’s actually much more about their experience - whether the doctor was listening to them, if they felt like they were part of the solution and the doctor had their best interest at heart.” Today, Dr. Rathmell shares the importance of connecting with patients. She has developed a habit of taking a pencil & paper with her in the exam room to draw for her patients - “it might be a schematic outlining a treatment plan or a picture of a kidney showing where the tumor is or why it’s more complicated than average.” This has helped her engage with patients and ultimately improve their experience.

Pearls of Wisdom:

1. Remove the invisible barriers that you put in front of yourself that hold you back and limit your potential.
2. Mentorship is a two-way street: for the mentee, it’s not just how the mentor can impact your life, but how you can help your mentor reach their goals. This is empowering because you don’t just ask, you can also give.
3. To move from good to great, first, know what you know, but also what you don’t know.  Ask for help when you need it. Then, focus on the patient experience and not just outcomes.
4. Don’t lose your passion. It can be directed in different directions, but it’s that passion, that fire in the belly, that leads to success more than what you’re actually doing.