MODEL Lead Showcase

Featuring Linda Nguyen, MD

June 18, 2024

The MODEL (Mentorship, Opportunity, Development, Empowerment, Leadership) Program, initiated by the Department of Medicine, is a department-wide, cross-divisional, mentoring and development program designed to meet the unique needs of the CE and UML faculty lines. 

Launched in January 2024, MODEL is championing a dynamic new mentoring culture across the department.

This June, we are pleased to spotlight MODEL Lead Linda Nguyen, MD. In addition to her dedicated work as a MODEL Lead, she is a clinical professor of Gastroenterology & Hepatology at the Department of Medicine. 

Describe your mentoring style. What do you think are the most important attributes of a good mentor? 

My mentoring style adapts to the specific needs and career stages of my mentees. For trainees and students, my focus is on providing technical guidance to ensure they acquire the clinical and research skills necessary for their success and advancement.

When mentoring junior faculty, I adopt a more holistic and facilitative approach. I aim to understand their passions, goals, and any personal circumstances that might impact their careers. I've observed that many junior faculty members struggle during their early years. Unlike the clearly defined path of a trainee, the journey as a faculty member can seem boundless, which can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. This is often where junior faculty members may feel lost.

I believe the most crucial attribute of a good mentor is the ability to listen and understand the whole person. A good mentor should care enough to offer constructive criticism and foster an environment of trust where such feedback is received openly.

Who was your most influential mentor, and what was the most important lesson you took away from that relationship?  

When I was a trainee, Dr. William Snape was my mentor. He introduced me to the world of Neurogastroenterology and started me on my career path. He opened his network to me. As a junior faculty, his door was always open, and I frequently walked through that door. We talked frequently about patient care, research and life. He understood the struggles of being a young career mom before work-life balance was a thing. I remember bringing my 3-year-old into the office because I didn’t have childcare. He walked by the blanket on the floor with scattered toys, chuckled and went about his work, stopping by intermittently to play. Through that relationship, I learned that it was important to be a holistic mentor and meet mentees where they are at in their lives. 

When I first came to Stanford, I lost that mentoring relationship and struggled. I found that it was more difficult to find mentors as a faculty. I eventually found peer mentors both within and beyond Stanford, extending even outside of the medical field.

It was especially important for me to find women who understood my struggles and people who looked like me. These women have supported me during difficult times, celebrated my successes, and opened doors for new opportunities. From them, I learned that mentors and sponsors come in all shapes and sizes, and I realized the value of having a diverse team of mentors, sponsors, and coaches.

Why do you think it is important to establish and promote a culture of mentorship within the DoM? I.e. What might that look like when we are successful?   

When I think about the culture of mentorship, the first thing that comes to mind is “Better Together.” Mentoring is truly a bidirectional learning experience. I’ve learned from both my mentors and mentees. The Department of Medicine is incredibly large and spread throughout the Bay Area. We need to be intentional and holistic in our approach to mentorship. We also need our mentorship to be adaptable to the changing needs of the faculty to engage a more diverse faculty. WHEN we are successful, the Department of Medicine could be a place where every individual can feel a sense of belonging, thrive with authenticity and reflect the population of patients and students we serve. 

Share a moment or experience in the MODEL program that significantly impacted you/was memorable. 

After a debrief with my MODEL group, a common theme that emerged was a stronger sense of connection to the institution.

One of my goals in developing the programming was to help mentees gain a better understanding of Stanford, expand their professional networks and develop a better sense of belonging. The positive feedback helped reinforce the need for connection. 

Where do you find the most joy in your work with the MODEL program? 

I find the most joy in the one-on-one connections with the MODEL mentees, helping them carve their paths at Stanford and beyond. Additionally, getting to know my MODEL lead colleagues, whose passion for mentoring is truly inspiring, challenges me to elevate my own mentoring efforts.

When we are successful, the Department of Medicine could be a place where every individual can feel a sense of belonging, thrive with authenticity and reflect the population of patients and students we serve.

– Linda Nguyen, MD

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MODEL Lead Showcase: William Collins, MD

Explore insights from the MODEL Lead Showcase, a monthly series featuring the key figures shaping mentorship in medicine at Stanford's DoM. Check out our May 2024 feature with William Collins, MD.