Susan Eagle, MD, receives inaugural Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance Faculty Commitment to Student Excellence Award

Medical faculty stay busy teaching future physicians, conducting research, saving lives, among many other tasks. When this is done routinely and with intention, they become role models, promote professional development of others, and create supportive and positive learning environments.

All those actions earned Susan Eagle, MD, professor of Anesthesiology, and Assistant Vice Chair Anesthesiology Faculty Affairs, the inaugural Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) Faculty Commitment to Student Excellence Award.

This award recognizes those who have a significant impact on the educational experience of students through their teaching, leadership, and engagement with the curriculum. Eagle’s strong mentoring relationship with students at Meharry Medical College is part of what earned her this recognition.

Mercedes Ridinger, MPH, is the program manager of the MVA. She said Eagle’s commitment to student success and dedication to the anesthesiology student interest group is evident.

The MVA met with Dr. Eagle and a couple of the students from the interest group many months ago and we all could feel the mutual respect, dedication to learning, student success, and active support of an inclusive environment within moments of that first meeting,” Ridinger said.

It’s the first year this has been awarded. MVA Executive Director, Dr. Karen Winkfield, recognized that there were quite a few ad hoc groups where faculty from one institution were leading and/or supporting groups of trainees from outside of their own institution, thus this award was born. It supports and acknowledges that cross-institutional engagement from faculty at Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“It was our hope to recognize, support, and hopefully, amplify these faculty leaders and the trainees they serve,” Ridinger said.

Eagle noted that this award acknowledges a new path for medical professionals to fill an important need.

“In one sense, I adhere to the classic definition of mentorship, including providing career guidance and insight from decades of experience in the medical community. I also look at mentorship through a different lens,” Eagle said. “Often medical training can be isolating and uncertain. A mentor can provide students with confidence and security by simply knowing that they are not alone in the world.”

The program has been a grass roots effort that began with interactions with Meharry Medical students who were rotating at VUMC on their surgery rotation, Eagle said.

“As I got to know the students better, there were mentorship needs that surfaced, particularly for those interested in Anesthesiology. What started out as one student, rapidly increased to other students reaching out for mentorship,” Eagle said.

So much so that Eagle had to employ other anesthesiology faculty members to assist with the process. The enthusiasm from faculty mentors who have dedicated time to the program, in addition to Meharry Medical Student leaders, (including Christian Gopichand, Gabe Ekechukwu, and Kareem Kazeem) an Anesthesiology Interest Group was formed where medical students were paired with individual VUMC faculty mentors.

Eagle said they focus on 1:1 professional development, research opportunities, mock interviews for residency, simulation lab, and casual group dinner events to build support and community.

To her mentees, “It brings me great joy to see you progress through your medical career, and for some of you, into residency.  I look forward to keeping in touch and hearing about your accomplishments,” Eagle said. “At the same time, please reach out for advice or if you need someone to be there for you throughout your journey.”

Nominations for future awards will be open early Spring 2024.

Susan Eagle, MD, receives inaugural Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance Faculty Commitment to Student Excellence Award. (Mentees shown: G. Ekechukwu & C. Gopichand.)