Friday, May 22, 2009

The Death of My Mentor

I'm flooded with feelings tonight....

What does it mean to learn that my mentor, that great facilitator of my professional development, the one who had faith in my potential, the one who pushed me to my limit but not beyond, the one who trusted and believed that I could be all that I wanted to be.....has died?

I learned today that my mentor, Thomas Andreoli, M.D. died April 14, 2009. A letter crossed my desk today from the University of Arkansas College of Medicine inviting me to an event to "celebrate" his life. The invitation stopped me in my tracks; a celebration of life means someone has died. I hadn't known about his death and went on line immediately to find his obituary in the April 19th issue of the N.Y. Times. He was 74. I never expected this. Not now. He died too young, taken from this world with accomplishments, recognitions, and honors only the very best in the field can expect. I'm privileged to be among the many trainees he mentored over his many decades in academic medicine. He is the hero of my professional life. Forever.

In this time when I question my role as a physician and the value of my work, wondering if this is work worth doing, I am pulled back into the reality of what was, what made me choose this specific trajectory, and how his influence steered me towards his passion, making the field of Nephrology my passion as well. I owe everything to this man. He nurtured the immature and developing wings of young physicians, and while demanding excellence in science and service to patients, he touched hundreds, maybe thousands of young lives as we "became" who we were meant to be as physicians and scientists, whether in clinical service or basic research. His mind, ever brilliant, demanded the best we could give and serve it up we did. If he said jump, we asked, "how high?" I've never met another person like him and no one person has ever affected my life as he did.

I'll never forget as a medical student interviewing with him for an internship position at U.T. Houston. I was nervous. He was not. I was in awe. He was a giant in the field and held all the cards. I covered up all those nerves with sheer will and made it through the interview only to have him tell me as we finished up, "Kate, I want you in this entering class of interns. Welcome aboard." And later as a medical resident he steered me towards the sub specialty of Nephrology and away from my second love, Cardiology. "Kate; you will be a Nephrologist.", he would say. I listened because I trusted him, was in awe of his brilliant mind, and his ability to mesmerize me with his knowledge.

After 25 years as a practicing Nephrologist, I look back tonight at the man, the mentor who believed in me, who knew I could do this work and do it well. Thank you Dr. Andreoli. Thank you and God Bless. You will be missed.


  1. There are important connections here. Give yourself time to sort them out.

  2. It is sad that he is gone, but by doing the work you do - which is definitely Worth Doing - you are already celebrating his life.

    best wishes to you, Kate, it must have been very tough hearing of his death.

  3. I hope you plan to go to the celebration of his work and life. Do not miss this. Take off and go.


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