Toxicology: Honoring our Mentors and Traditions


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Source: Sarah Kerrigan, PhD, Section Secretary

As part of President Martell’s meeting theme Celebrating The Forensic Science Family, he identified three sub-themes, one of which was “Honoring Our Mentors and Traditions.” The 2014 theme focused more on mentorship and education for the next generation of forensic scientists but in “Honoring our Mentors and Traditions,” I am reminded that we all need mentors, at any age and in the many stages of our careers and life journey.

In fact, one could make a sound argument that as we progress in our careers with more responsibility, the challenges become inherently more complex, political, and difficult to navigate. At times like these, we rely heavily on a brain trust, just like Franklin Roosevelt, who coined the expression based on his trusted team of advisors during his presidential administration. If we take a few moments to think, we should know who these people are. Among your own brain trust, there may be family members, close friends, but almost certainly your trusted colleagues – Academy members with whom you have developed deep and meaningful relationships, often over decades. Just like your retirement portfolio, the more diverse your mentors the better. A spouse, a priest, a mother, a grandmother, past presidents of the Academy, and numerous members within our organization are part of mine! Many of those members, who were once just professional colleagues, may have developed into close personal friends over the years. These individuals are certainly part of your own personal forensic family.

So what does this group of individuals do for you – advise or mentor? And what is the difference anyway?

John Steinbeck said, “You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.” There is a lot of truth to this – our inherent need to seek confirmation of our own beliefs. This approach can get you into a lot of trouble as we know. A mentor on the other hand does way more, and challenges us to do the right thing which is sometimes difficult. John Crosby said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” If you weren’t exactly sure of everyone who was in your brain trust before, you know who they are from this last quote. So, now for some advice from the Toxicology Section: buy them a drink at the upcoming meeting in Orlando. It’s a time-honored tradition and fits perfectly with the theme of “Honoring Our Mentors AND Traditions.” Cheers to all of you!