American Academy of Dermatology Summer Meeting
American Academy of Dermatology Summer Meeting
July 31, 2019
2 min read

Think sponsorship over mentorship to help advance careers in dermatology

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Amy McMichael, MD
Amy McMichael

NEW YORK — The recipient of the Everett C. Fox Memorial Award and Lectureship encouraged clinicians to partake in more sponsorship relationships to advance careers, which allow especially women and minorities to help reach their highest potential.

“When I was asked to do this lecture, I knew I wanted to talk about the journey that I’ve been able to have because of dermatology,” Amy McMichael, MD, professor and chair of dermatology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, said during the plenary session at the American Academy of Dermatology Summer Meeting. “A lot of my formative experience began at the University of Michigan under Drs. Charles Ellis and John Voorhees, where clinical expertise was at the intersection of research inquiry, which became a big focus for me.”

It was at a hair clinic there that McMichael was able to understand that hair disorders were an area without a lot of classification or treatments. “We couldn’t tell patients much about it,” she said.

“When I landed at Wake Forest to work in epidemiology training, what I found was a group of people that were liked-minded, who liked research and were collaborative. The gift that I received from being there, now for almost 25 years, is an understanding of where mentorship meets scholarship,” she said. “The collaboration I could be a part of has become my norm and allowed me to step out of my comfort zone.”

Mentorship is well understood, she said. “In dermatology there are mentorships for women’s dermatology, pediatric dermatology, programs under AAD, diversity mentorships and so on. But what we don’t always think about is how mentorship advances careers. What we now know is that most women and those of multicultural backgrounds need more than just mentors. They need support as they don’t get as much as Caucasian men do,” she said.

Mentors advise others, whereas sponsors advocate on someone’s behalf. “There is a difference,” McMichael said. “Sponsors have proteges instead of mentees. They are at a senior level instead of any level and directly promote their proteges using their reputation, network and platforms to make sure advancement takes place. They are personally invested in what you are doing, and that is really where I think we need to be.”

“When I first arrived at Wake Forest, the former founding chair there sat me down and asked what my clinical niche would be. From then on, he opened up his network for me, exposing me to other chairs in the field, local dermatologists and national organizations. That was where sponsorship really promoted and advanced my career,” she said.

“Sponsorship and standing on the shoulders of giants really helped advance my career,” McMichael said. “Those who first started to talk and write about skin of color patients, those who first wrote about hair disorders — I give gratitude to them because they laid the groundwork for what I do now.” – by Abigail Sutton


For more information:

McMichael A. Hair loss; A journey of follicular rescue – Everett C. Fox Memorial Award and Lectureship. Presented at: American Academy of Dermatology Summer Meeting; July 25-28, 2019; New York.


Disclosure: McMichael reports no relevant financial disclosures.