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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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Feb 25, 2021

Susan Quaggin MD is the Charles Horace Mayo Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the Director of the Feinberg Cardiovascular Research Institute and the Chief of the Division of Nephrology in the Department of Medicine. Dr. Quaggin completed her Medical school, residency in internal medicine, and fellowship in nephrology from the University of Toronto and then pursued a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University. Over her career, she has contributed to over 150 publications in nephrology and vascular biology, and her research lab has helped enhance the understanding of common glomerular diseases and inspire the development of promising therapeutics. She is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians and the National Academy of Medicine and is currently serving as the President of the American Society of Nephrology.

After Dr. Susan Quaggin completed her nephrology fellowship, she picked up a pipette for the very first time upon entering a basic science lab. Her mentor, Dr. Mitchell Halperin told her, “You’re leaving at the top of your clinical game. In the research lab, you’re gonna be at the very bottom and you’re going to have to walk up that hill again.” Those first two years, nothing seemed to work for Dr. Quaggin. There were times she just wanted to go back and practice medicine. But she stuck with it. Why? “There were all these questions I’d seen as a resident and fellow that we did not have treatments for. The patients would be asking about their diseases and what’s on the horizon. That drove me to stick with it.” The strength of her vision allowed her to persevere into becoming a nationally recognized physician scientist today.

Pearls of Wisdom:

1. Mentors can have a tremendous impact when making important life decisions.
2. Take a step and reach out to mentors. You’re not bothering senior faculty when you reach out. On the contrary! They get really excited! It’s a win-win for everybody!
3. The power of your vision can help you persevere past challenges, despite failure.
4. Identify the value that every team member brings. Remember that medicine is a team sport, not an individual superstar game anymore.