We can all look back on our careers and point to those particular people that served as mentors. Where would we be now without the time they took to help guide our path? Mentorship is a critical component in student success, and it is a worthwhile way to connect and engage as alumni. We are launching the College of Pharmacy Mentoring Mondays series to promote the Alumni Ambassador Program and the UGA Mentor Program.
Dean Kelly M. Smith ’92, ’93 is our first PharmDawg Mentor Spotlight. Read on for our Q&A with Dean Smith!
1. How has mentoring played a role in your career?
Each stop along my professional journey has been influenced by mentors. Navigating the residency search process and charting the beginning of my career as a drug information pharmacist was heavily influenced by a faculty mentor. An academic administrative role was not a step I had seriously considered until a mentor strongly encouraged me to do so. Others strongly guided me to pursue leadership roles in ASHP. Each of those nudges along the way were critical to me having the confidence and vision to take the next step in my career.
2. Why is it important for our students to actively seek mentors?
Many pharmacy students work incredibly hard to reach pharmacy school, and then they become stuck – how to chart a course for their next steps is not something they are often adept at. This “now what” moment can be where a mentor, guide, sage, or counselor can be instrumental. They can help guide the student to be more introspective and reflective, thus identifying their own strengths and opportunities. Building upon that information, the mentor can give that “real world” insight and perspective that our students so very much crave. And, while the pharmacy world is seemingly small, it can seem large and daunting to a student. A mentor can help connect the student with opportunities – making introductions to possible employers, serving as a professional reference for leadership position applications, or simply bringing new ideas that the student may have not yet considered.
3. What is a particular piece of guidance you received that has remained important through your career?
The concept of being open, open to both opportunity and learning, is something that has become a core professional tenet for me. Be open to exploring a new pharmacy avenue, be open to applying for an elected or appointed leadership position in an organization, be open to challenging yourself to grow, and be open to learning from every situation. We may not always like the outcome of a situation, but we can always learn and grow from it. A second insight that I have gleaned from a mentor is that the term “networking” can be offputting; instead, think of it as “connecting.” Asking someone to connect you with another pharmacy professional feels much more comfortable for many people. Before you know it, your circle of connections grows dramatically, which affords you the chance to make connections on the behalf of others.
4. How does offering mentoring opportunities strengthen our programs and the college?
Each step of my professional journey has contributed to my perspectives, to my sphere of influence, and to my identity, first as a pharmacist, second as a pharmacy faculty member, and third as a Dean. Providing a structure and path forward for our students to enjoy similar successes is something we aspire to do. Working together to shrink the pharmacy world for our students so that they can make connections and truly pursue their career passions is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.