It takes an exceptional person to become a great physician or scientist. But excellence in medicine requires relationships that connect, and that's why at Weill Cornell we place a special focus on mentoring. It's the foundation of the best patient care and the next big discoveries. That emphasis starts here in the dean's office, and I am very proud of the results.
I have many mornings wrapped up in a blanket when it is cold, drinking my coffee on my terrace, waiting for the sun to come up. When I can get writing done is about 4:00 to 6:00 or 7:00. My students find this annoying because usually they'll work on a paper, and they'll email it to me thinking that they'll have a day or two of a break. Because they usually send it at 11:00 or 12:00 or 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, and I usually get up around 4:00. It's usually sitting back in their inbox when they come into the lab the next morning.
When I'm coming into work, I'm either thinking about a new research idea, or I'm thinking about a question a student is asking and how we can frame that in such a way that he or she can really get traction in telling that story. We also know, of course, that exercise is very good for your brain, so it's probably fluffing up my hippocampus so that I can think more broadly.
I direct the Sackler Institute, and our work really focuses on the adolescent brain. Adolescence is a time when we're seeing so many changes that are occurring in the brain. But it's also a time when we're seeing a peak incidence in mental illnesses, particularly anxiety and depression.
Today you're going to be playing a computer game with faces while you're in the scanner. The jackpot looks like this.
Our research is focusing on identifying risk factors for these disorders. If we can't make the lives of young people healthier, we're not going to be able to make society healthier in the future.
I've had the wonderful opportunity to mentor so many great scientists at Weill Cornell. One of the most amazing is Conor Liston.
Connectivity between this orbital region, cortex and subcortical structures. We hope that we might be able to develop these tools so they can actually make a clinical impact in cases like that.
When Conor came through the door, he was already an accomplished young scientist from Harvard with a high profile paper. Many times when you get a lot of attention early in your career, you can kind of coast on that. I've never in my life seen Conor coast. It was a beautiful scientific marriage.
Weill Cornell is a wonderful home because it's such an incredibly collaborative environment. And it takes a very strong and patient leader to allow that type of environment.
I think it's a fabulous environment for Conor because he is foremost interested in the question and the discovery. No one is there to prove a hypothesis; they are there to test hypotheses. And that's when discoveries are made.
I grew up on this very small farm. Neither of my parents had gone to college beyond four years. I think where I began to be interested in science was growing up on the farm, because everything you do on the farm is a little experiment.
The fabulous thing about my mother is she was really someone who always let us make our own decisions, and always encouraged us and said she knew whatever decision we made, she knew it would be the right decision. That we would make the right decision for us. I think it's part of my mentoring style to try to help these students make their own decisions, but to try to help them make the best decisions they can by being a sounding board for them.
I think what Conor and I have in common is we like the tension of always having to change our scientific ideas and change who we are and how we explore those ideas and questions. Now he's training the next generation of scientists.
Every single year I feel like I have just the best group of people that I'm working with. And then there's always this sort of vulnerable point I get into where I realize they're growing up, and they're leaving, or they're moving on. And then the next year they just kind of regroup and form another fabulous group.
One of our mottos is, you can take the science as serious as you want to, but you can't take yourself too seriously because it'll get in your way. I'd like to say that I take great pride in who he is and who he continues to become. But the pride should all be really Conor's pride.
It's a blow out.
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Dr. BJ Casey learned all she needed to know about mentorship from her mother. As director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology, Dr. Casey has been a sounding board for and mentor to Dr. Conor Liston as he's gone from student to assistant professor at Weill Cornell.
Get an inside look at life at Weill Cornell Medical College and meet the people who shape the institution. The first season of Inside Medicine explores the different forms mentorship can take in medicine. Meet a patient who guides the next generation of physicians, a student about to earn her doctorate under the dean's counsel and an experienced psychobiologist who advises an early-career physician-scientist.