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Listen to Ivana Romac Coc, MD, Ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the Lerner School of Medicine, and the President of the Women Professional Staff Association at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, and our very own GLLI's Lisa Minor discuss the complexities of navigating leadership as women here at Cleveland Clinic and the importance of mentorship.

Bonus Content: Ja’Net Colbert discusses the details of the very first Cleveland Clinic Mentoring Resource Center, a connection tool offered to all caregivers at Cleveland Clinic to help them connect with other caregivers around the organization to network and gain new skills.


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Having a Seat at the Table: The Role of Mentoring for Women Leaders in Healthcare

Podcast Transcript

Michelle: Hello and welcome to Learning to Lead, a leadership development podcast from Cleveland Clinic. I'm Michelle Lampton. In today's episode, we continue our series on women in leadership, where we speak with women leaders at Cleveland Clinic and learn more about their leadership journeys. My colleague at the Mandel Global Leadership and Learning Institute, Lisa Minor, spoke with Ivana Cook, an Ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Clinical Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the Learner School of Medicine and the President of the Women Professional Staff Association at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Here's their conversation.

Lisa Minor: Good morning, Ivana. Thank you so much for being with us today.

Ivana Cook: Thank you, Lisa. It's really great to be here with you today.

Lisa Minor: So let's just start off, if you could just tell us a little bit about your role, your position at the Cleveland clinic and really what you enjoy most about your work

Ivana Cook: Sure. I'm an Ophthalmologist specialized in Cornea and Refractive surgery, and I'm also Clinical Assistant professor of Ophthalmology at Learner college of Medicine and I'm working at Cleveland Clinical Abu Dhabi for last four and half years. This year, I have been elected as a President of Women, Personal Staff Association of Cleveland Clinic, Abu Dhabi and I am very proud of it. It is an honor to work with amazing women physicians and to advocate for their professional development, advancement, wellbeing. I really enjoy, my, new position and what we do within WPSA. We try to empower each other usually with suggestions for our personal and institutional growth. And we are now focusing, on improving gender equity. We work on career advancements and higher female representation at executive levels, and I'm also very excited to share that we started the process of organizing our first women in leadership conference, which is planned for September 2022.

Lisa Minor: Wow. That sounds like such amazing work Ivana. I'm so impressed and, excited to learn more about that. You must have had several, mentors along the way that, have helped you, or shaped your thoughts about women in leadership and just gender equity. Do you have any ideas or thoughts that you could share with us about who supported you along the way?

Ivana Cook: So during my career, in the last 10 year, I had few people that had supported me and that had a significant impact on my career, but that was mostly in the field Ophthalmology who I would like to mention here is my colleague Dr. Pascale, who is Staff Physician at a Digestive Disease Institute at Clinic Abu Dhabi and she's a previous WPSA President, also Medical Director of Physician experience and recently appointed as a medical director of OPSA and she's the one who led me into WPSA she's the one who encouraged me to believe in myself and to remain enthusiastic in everything, what I do and that's why I will be forever grateful for her support and mentorship.

Ivana Cook: I think it's really important to have a mentor for everybody who is interested in career development, especially for women, because, we have these challenges that we face and especially when we are considering the leadership role and when we are looking for a mentor, we should find a person who can change our perception, a person who can boost confidence and try to teach us how to openly discuss our ambitions and try to facilitate our leadership skills and how to develop our leadership skills.

Lisa Minor: That's fascinating. So it sounds like your mentors have really been able, to help you believe in yourself, and move you forward. How else have you navigated being a female leader? When it comes to gender bias, in an industry that's predominantly male dominated, be interested to hear your thoughts on that.

Ivana Cook: I think it's really not easy. Even nowadays, it's not easy and although women may have majority of the healthcare workforce, they hold less than 20% of leadership roles in healthcare, in hospitals. So it's really disappointing, but in spite of knowing that we should not sit back and just simply accept it, we should work on the skills that can help us, to get where we want. And we have to support one another, and we should try to share our experiences in order to overcome these challenges that we face. And especially when we are looking for advancement in career, and like many other women, I have experienced Imposter syndrome and I have struggled with insecurity, but during the last few years I have changed my mindset and I have learned how important it's to believe in yourself and how important is to speak up for yourself. If you don't change your way of thinking you may hold yourself back. I think, it's crucial to identify both your strengths and weaknesses and just to work on both, to be able to navigate better.

Lisa Minor: That's excellent. I really appreciate you digging into the specifics around, the fact that it's not easy, right? But that we have to speak up for ourselves and make sure that we have a platform to stand on. I appreciate you talking more about that, if you were sitting here with your younger self today or if you had a young female professional that was asking for your advice who might want to be in your shoes one day or doing something similar I'm curious as to what type of advice you might give her.

Ivana Cook: I think as a woman leader in a hospital, you have to be aware that you will be often the only woman at a table, and you may feel that you don't belong there and that Imposter syndrome is real it really exists, but we should always remember that we are equally qualified to be in that room. Unfortunately, gender inequity remains a big problem in a healthcare and even though women make up more than 50% of students in medical schools, they only account for about 20% of leadership positions. So what we need to do and what future healthcare leaders will need to do is creating the program to establish policies that will minimize gender inequity in healthcare and they need to create environment of equality for all employees. I really think that having more women and more diversity leadership is great because we need, different way of thinking, and we need different perspectives and as you ask for advice

Ivana Cook: The advice that, I would tell for every young woman who is seeking for leadership as opportunity is try to focus on leadership skills, like financial knowledge, emotional intelligence, complex management, and the ability to coach it's crucial to explore opportunities and how you can get the skills. There are some formal trainings, but there is also a number of professional societies that can offer leadership development, which is the kind of cost effective way and often some healthcare system investing leadership training opportunities. The other advice I would give is to identify a mentor, a person who you can relate to somebody who intrigues you and mostly in the terms of leadership style and someone you can from which you can learn and grow for.

Lisa Minor: That's great advice Ivana, thank you for sharing that, I couldn't help but to really hone in on your example of creating an environment of equality and really trying, to focus on those specific leadership skills. I know that within the Mandel Global Leadership and Learning Institute, following this podcast, we will link to resources that we have available that can support you with exploring opportunities around leadership development, financial acumen, coaching, and more. So we hope that our listeners will be able to take advantage of those as well. Ivana, anything else that you'd like to share with our listeners today, just about your journey into leadership or any last imparting words?

Ivana Cook: Maybe to talk about the reasons why I wanted to become a Physician, because this is how everything started. I think the reason why I wanted to become a physician is because I felt it's wonderful to be a member of profession that involves intellectual pursuit and also improves quality of life of patients and bring satisfaction both to patient and physician.

So I think for being a physician is emotionally rewarding job, and all it can be very demanding. You get this internal satisfaction, you're helping people to improve their overall quality of life. And I think the greatest gift one can give another, is to improve someone's quality of life. So it's really true, amazing to do this kind of job and the other positive thing is that you get opportunity to meet and interact with various new people and you learn new things from them each day. This job is extremely dynamic and this is a kind of job where you never get bored.

Lisa Minor: Well that's good, We all definitely like to have a challenge and make sure that we're utilizing our strengths and skills Ivana, I just want to thank you so much for your time and all of the great advice and insights that you share with our listeners today really, really appreciate it and are so incredibly grateful for your participation.

Ivana Cook: Thank you very much, Lisa. It was a pleasure being part of this podcast.

Michelle: That was a wonderful conversation and I personally really appreciated Ivana's insights into the skills a leader could benefit from, but I don't know about you. When she talked about the importance of being a mentor, I found myself kind of at a loss. How do I go about finding a mentor, especially at an organization as large as Cleveland Clinic? I reached out to Ja'Net Colbert, who is the program manager for GLLI's Mentoring Resource Center, to share more about this new resource that's available to all Cleveland clinic Caregivers on Connect Today. Welcome, Ja'Net, and thank you so much for taking the time to share more about this valuable resource.

Ja'Net: Sure. Thanks for having me.

Michelle: In Lisa's conversation with Ivana, she talked a lot about the importance of mentoring and how it helped her throughout her career. At Mandel GLLI, we have this mentoring resource center that you help run. Could you tell us more out that resource?

Ja'Net: Absolutely. We launched the first ever mentoring resource center. This resource is available to every single caregiver, no matter what location you're at, no matter what level of the organization you are at, no matter what position. This is available to everyone. We have taken a non-traditional approach with putting this together. We're not doing matching. We're not matching mentors and mentees together. We're letting our mentees use the directory that we have put together to find a mentor that has said, "Hey, I have this particular skill that I want to share with someone else." In Connect Today, we have a directory of mentors that our mentees can go in and look through and find a mentor that they think will best be able to help them.

Michelle: That's fascinating. So, when I'm looking through this directory and I'm trying to think about what kind of mentor I should choose, what are some things I should be looking for? What are some things that I should be thinking about?

Ja'Net: First I would think about what do you want to get out of this meeting with your mentor? That may help you think about what kind of mentor you want. If you're wanting to maybe learn more about the Cleveland clinic organization, so you may want to see what kind of role does this person have in the organization? A lot of people want somebody that has a similar background with them, so you may want to check out their profile. What type of experience have they had? I think if you know what you want to get out of that meeting that would definitely help drive and help you navigate the search for a mentor.

Michelle: Thank you so much for that because I know that when I look at that directory, I'm probably going to feel really overwhelmed. To go with that, listeners of this podcast may not believe this, but I'm actually a really shy person. I don't like cold calling people. The thought of that is terrifying. Do you have any advice on how I can start that conversation between myself and a potential mentor?

Ja'Net: Absolutely. So, within the directory and within the Mentoring Resource Center on Connect Today, we've developed templates that you can use to reach out to actually start that conversation and ask that person to be your mentor. Once you actually get into that meeting, you can start by introducing yourself, finding out what a typical day at work looks like for this person. What's been their inspiration? How have they navigated the career ladder? How have they become successful? You could talk about successes and failures. Those are also some things that we have developed some resources for conversation starters for both the mentor and mentee because we know sometimes it can be uncomfortable to start that initial conversation.

Michelle: Well, thank you so much for that. I really am going to appreciate those extra resources to help break that ice. As I continue this relationship with my mentor, do you have any suggestions on what I can do to make sure that that relationship is as valuable as possible?

Ja'Net: Sure. I would say being respectful of that person's time, so making sure that you have a clear expectation of what you want to get out of that meeting, being open and vulnerable. I would say most of all, have fun, enjoy it. Enjoy the opportunity to be able to connect with someone and learn more about them.

Michelle: Awesome. That's amazing. Well, Ja'Net, thank you so much for taking the time to join us on Learning to Lead and telling us a little bit more about that mentoring resource center.

Ja'Net: No problem. Thank you for having me.

Michelle: And that's our episode. A huge thank you to Ivana for sharing her leadership story and advice. And thank you to both of my colleagues, Lisa and Ja'Net, for all of the amazing work they do around caregiver development and mentoring.

That's it for us at GLLI. Stay curious and keep learning.  

Learning to Lead
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Learning to Lead

This podcast is designed for Cleveland Clinic caregivers looking to develop their leadership skills both personally and professionally. Listen in with leadership experts on the topics that matter most, and what makes our culture what it is at Cleveland Clinic. We'll hear from aspiring leaders to seasoned experts on hard lessons learned, best practices, and how to grow and develop. No matter where you are in your journey, this podcast is for you.
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