Dr Hester Franks, NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer in Medical Oncology, is one of the Academy's mentees with a long-distance mentor, with 280 miles between them. We asked her to share some thoughts on her long-distance mentoring relationship.

As soon as I heard about the Academy of Medical Sciences Mentoring programme, I wanted to join.

I knew that an independent person to talk things through with would be invaluable. I was clear about the type of person I was looking for; a female clinical academic who had achieved success at the same time as having a family. I am not someone who can completely sacrifice their home life for their work and I believe that a good work-life balance actually makes me a better scientist and clinician. My research is laboratory-based, so I also wanted someone leading a laboratory-based research group as this brings specific challenges as a clinical academic. With those criteria (female, family, clinical academic, laboratory-based) I created a shortlist from the online profiles. Geography was not a factor. I decided that finding the right mentor and overcoming any long-distance mentoring challenges was preferable to selecting someone closer to home who did not fit all the criteria I was seeking.

By road, it is about 280 miles between us. So far, we have had two Skype meetings and two meetings in person. For the first meeting, I managed to coordinate visiting friends in the same city, but the second had to be a day trip due to the logistical challenges of a medic husband and small children. There are direct flights from a nearby airport to one in her city. Without this (or a direct train service), the distance would be more difficult as I would not get as much work done en route and would have a lot more ‘wasted’ time spent travelling for each meeting. It is amazing how productive you can be when no one is interrupting you!

One positive which I had not anticipated is that the journey home gives me some time out to reflect on our discussion, and I find that really valuable to fully consider the options my mentor has suggested to me. I think I actually get more out of the mentoring sessions by having to travel a significant distance, rather than diving straight back into my (always busy) working day.

The main challenge has been scheduling our meetings- we are both very busy, I work part time (so have no childcare on my days off) and due to the distance, I either need two free consecutive days or one long day when I can guarantee that my husband can both drop off and pick up the children.

Mentoring so far has helped me to feel confident in the decisions I am making, and my mentor has also suggested different options and avenues that I had not considered.

I have absolutely no regrets about choosing a mentor so far away from me geographically. I trust and value her opinion, as someone who has achieved the things I aspire to in my career. I am looking forward to our ongoing mentoring relationship and am sure it will continue to be as beneficial as it has already been.

Dr Hester Franks, Academy Mentee


For more information about our Mentoring programme, please visit the mentoring pages of our website.

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