Adam Leventhal

Photo by: Ziva Santop/ Steve Cohn Photography
Photo by: Ziva Santop/ Steve Cohn Photography

Keck School of Medicine of USC and USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Like many scholars, I strive to produce high quality work that meaningfully impacts the field. I am serious about my work, but that is not the only reason (and may not even be the top reason) that I come to campus every day.

Rather, it is the setting in which I produce this work, my university research laboratory, where I have the opportunity to mentor some of the most impressive, talented and kind people one could ever encounter. In my most successful mentoring relationships, there has been a bi-directional transaction in which the mentee actively sought out guidance and I unabashedly doled out my advice in an honest and genuine manner. I have had no trouble sharing both my greatest successes and worst failures, with hopes that my mentees will pursue what works and avoid what often doesn’t. I also share the “behind the scenes” stuff that takes place in the profession. Sometimes these may be tips to get a professional advantage (e.g., what types of papers certain journal editors like to publish). Other times, they are personal tips, like when and how to choose family over work. As I look back on my role as a mentor and mentee and what makes a good mentor, I can say that what works in relationships in one’s personal life—honesty, compassion, investment—also works in professional mentoring. It is difficult to ascribe a value to mentoring, although it is clear that a mentor is much more than just a teacher.