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Defining and personalizing your career path

Our podcast hosts return for a bonus episode with AGA President John Inadomi, who reflects on his uncommon yet impressive career path.
Small Talks, Big GI Topics
Small Talks, Big GI Topics

In this bonus episode of the Small Talk, Big Topics podcast, hosts Drs. Matthew Witson, C.S. Tse and Nina Nandy are joined by Dr. John Inadomi, president of AGA and chair of internal medicine at the University of Utah. Hear all about about his leadership skills, how he developed them and the role of AGA in his career development.

To begin, John discusses his unique career trajectory and changes. He holds a degree in biomechanical engineering and, after graduation, was working in artificial limbs biotics. When he got into med school, he felt a whole new world was opening up, and the depth of internal medicine really excited him. He was uncertain of what specialty he was drawn to, but it was the people in gastroenterology that really won him over. John’s mentors played a huge role in leading him on his own path. With this in mind, he shares that a good mentor is someone who offers parts of himself to the mentee. Mentorship isn’t an equal partnership, he says — The mentor has to give a lot more for the partnership to be beneficial.

Early on, John didn’t envision himself becoming chair of medicine. Listen as he shares the best and most generous professional advice he has ever received from a colleague. Then, he shares how to know whose advice to take and how to differentiate when given many opinions. Currently, AGA has a program to increase diversity within their workforce, particularly in research, called the  Fostering Opportunities Resulting in Workforce and Research Diversity (FORWARD) Program.

He believes a mentee should have advocates across a mentor team, as having more than one voice helps identify when a mentor isn’t acting in your benefit. Sometimes it’s required to change mentors, or even teams as a whole. These relationships take time and commitment to really work out. John’s goal in a mentorship is to help develop the career of his mentee and help them become independent. Issues can arise if a mentee isn’t fully committed to a certain path.

John’s career path has included the roles of clinician, fellowship director, clinical chief, division chief and chair of medicine. Each of these shifts required a large jump from the last. At some point, he found himself called to division leadership. Working every day for other people isn’t for everyone, and John believes it requires a major shift in thinking.

When considering a career transition, remember that every institution is different, and you have to know your own values to find a good fit. John warns that if you don’t fit in an organization’s culture or values, you’re in for a disaster.

As department chair, John’s job is to articulate the vision of the department and to establish the culture. Culture comes from the top and trickles down into the rest of the faculty. Listen as John shares how applicants can determine the culture and vision of organizations.

Then, John opens up about mistakes he has made in the past. One was hiring someone who fit the bill precisely on paper, but had different cultural expectations. Additionally, people and their values will change over time, so being communicative is absolutely crucial. He advises listeners to look at vision, values and culture not only as you enter an institution, but communicate those values as they evolve over time.

The conversation then shifts as John discusses the role of AGA in his own career development over time. As AGA is a volunteer organization, there is much potential offered in shaping the future over time. In his experience, this opportunity is both exciting and daunting. There is also a great networking opportunity.

Shifting gears, John discusses time management and prioritization in one’s professional life. He believes that you can actually do everything, just not all at once. Thus, prioritization is important in this regard. The good thing about academics is that it offers many different careers all within the same field. Sometimes burnout isn’t only about work-life balance, but also feeling a lack of autonomy or a sense of purpose in your work. Unfulfilling work can lead to burnout regardless of workload or balance.

As the episode wraps up, John answers some rapid-fire questions sent in from the audience to give listeners a better idea of his personality.

Finally, he shares his most valuable piece of advice: Rather than moving from a job just to leave, you should always be moving for a better opportunity. You have to understand your passion and vision to really find the right path for you. 

Review, rate and subscribe to Small Talk, Big Topics wherever you get your podcasts. Don’t forget to watch out for Season 2 this spring! Have topic or guest ideas? Send them to [email protected]

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