June 01, 2013


 AVMA pilots new mentoring program

Organizers seek to match recent graduates with mentors, state by state

Posted May 15, 2013 
Dr. Rachel Cumberbatch has been a veterinarian for two years, working as an associate at a Connecticut practice, and she is not sure yet where her career will take her.

In recent months, however, she has found a mentor in Dr. Eva Ceranowicz, an associate at another Connecticut practice. They email and meet regularly to discuss everything from cases to career paths. 
The AVMA’s new Compass Mentoring Program kicked off Oct. 24, 2012, with an event in Connecticut for recent graduates and potential mentors. Roundtable discussions covered student debt, work-life balance, and career paths. (Photo by Dr. Kevin Dajka)
What brought the two together was the Compass Mentoring Program, a new initiative from the AVMA. The AVMA introduced the program in Connecticut late last year, with plans to expand to other states this year.

Dr. Christopher Gargamelli, a program leader, said organizers have been thrilled with the response to date from collaborators and participants. 

Developing a program

Dr. Gargamelli, an associate at Animal Emergency Hos­pital of Central Connecticut in Rocky Hill, was a member of the 2011-2012 class of the AVMA Future Leaders Program. The class surveyed recent veterinary graduates about their needs, and mentorship turned out to be high on the list.
Dr. Gargamelli’s group within the class proposed a mentoring program. The group studied the AVMA’s past online mentoring program and programs through other professional organizations and corporations.
“We found that mentoring works best when it’s local, when people travel to see each other, when they can get together over a cup of coffee or a drink,” Dr. Gargamelli said. “Another key aspect that we found is that there needed to be ongoing support to the mentoring program.”
The AVMA launched a pilot version of the Compass Mentoring Program in Dr. Gargamelli’s home state of Connecticut in partnership with the Connecticut VMA and with additional funding from the CVMA and Zoetis. The project kicked off last fall, pairing 17 recent graduates in practice with mentors at other practices.
Along with other ongoing support, Compass organizers send a newsletter to participants with items ranging from communication tips to discussion topics. Dr. Gargamelli said the recent graduates feel freer discussing certain issues with a mentor who is not their employer.
“On a professional skills level, sometimes you don’t want to let on that there are certain things you’re not very good at to your boss,” he said. “If it comes to economics: ‘Is this practice the right fit for me, both kind of in terms of personality, in terms of financially; is there room for growth?’”
Compass organizers surveyed participants in the pilot project at one month and continue following up with surveys every three months. The goal was for pairs to be in communication about once a month; some are communicating more often, some less.  

Developing a career

Dr. Cumberbatch has found mentors within her own practice, Connecticut Veterinary Center in West Hartford, but she saw value in connecting with an outside mentor through the Compass Mentoring Program.
The 2011 graduate of Purdue University sought someone involved in organized veterinary medicine and particularly in governmental relations. Her match, Dr. Ceranowicz, is a 1990 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an associate at Bloomfield Animal Hospital in Bloomfield, and a leader within the CVMA.

Dr. Rachel Cumberbatch, a participant in the Compass Mentoring Program, examines Bella with assistance from veterinary technician Jose De La Espriella at Connecticut Veterinary Center in West Hartford. (Photo by Jillian Malicki)
Dr. Cumberbatch aspires to a multidimensional career. She is looking at options outside practice to improve human and animal health on a broad scale.
“As a young professional, there is not a lack of general advice,” she said. “The Compass program gives mentors an opportunity to listen and share their advice on concerns specific to the graduate.”
Dr. Cumberbatch is going on to a fellowship through the American Association for the Advancement of Science to work with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Most of the conversations between Drs. Cumberbatch and Ceranowicz surround practice, legislation, and nontraditional careers. The two communicate primarily by email, but they also meet at restaurants.
Dr. Ceranowicz said the Compass Mentoring Program is a great idea. “You think about young veterinarians: You’re getting out of school, you don’t necessarily—especially depending on what your first job is—you may not have the guidance or someone to look to, to say, ‘What are your thoughts on this, what are your ideas?’”
She continued, “I think it’s a nice opportunity for me, too, to talk to this young veterinarian who is just out of school and get her perspective on things.” 

Expanding the program

Compass organizers have arranged a get-together for Connecticut participants in late June that also will serve to introduce the program to new graduates in the state.
Organizers will hold a Compass kickoff event in Alabama in late June. Other states have expressed an interest in the program.
“I am excited for the future of Compass,” said Dr. Carrie Javorka, assistant director for recent graduate initiatives within the AVMA Membership and Field Services Division.
“It’s great to see the ideas of our volunteer leaders come to fruition through all their hard work and collaboration.
As we continue to focus more on recent graduates, we are looking to provide additional benefits and services in the areas of mentorship, membership, and financial resources.”