Mentorship: Salute to a Windy City Educator

Series Editor, Frank A. Clark, MD, introduces the Black History Month series by talking about his greatest mentor when so few were available.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

I am approaching 4 decades of life in a world where assiduous mentorship has allowed me to flourish. I remain mindful that my arduous journey on the road to becoming a Black physician was achieved through providential hands. I continue to receive the blessing and wisdom of the queen I salute this Black History Month, whose following exhortation remains embedded in my soul: “When you do right, right will follow you.”

Recently, I was corresponding with my mother, Joanne Marsh, who now resides in a memory care unit. Our conversations usually revolve around updates regarding her beloved granddaughter. Nonetheless, she can always sway the conversation toward her favorite topic, education. Her main question is, “Frank, do you have any homework?” I chuckle at her query and attempt to deflect the conversation toward a different subject with no success.

My mother was a tireless advocate for youth during her 35-year tenure as a Chicago public school teacher. She recognized that mentorship went above and beyond the teachings in the classroom. Her relentless pursuit for knowledge is just one of the many attributes I admire. She understood what it meant to seek justice and show compassion to students from diverse backgrounds.

My mother and I share many similarities, which I have can come to appreciate over her 7 decades of life. We are both resilient people of faith, despite the goliaths we have encountered. She and I had our academic struggles at different points in our journey. She attempted the teacher’s exam 3 times before successfully passing it. I had to relinquish my full-ride scholarship to medical school due to struggles in the academic arena. Therefore, my dream of becoming a physician was deferred by a total of 7 years. Through it all, it was my faithful fan that remained by my side with words of affirmation and unwavering support.

I have the blessing of being a husband, father, physician, mentor, and educator. However, these “branches” are nugatory if they are not connected to the “vine” that represents integrity, justice, and compassion.I am thankful to this Black pioneer who taught me that my homework is to bear good fruit and lead by example.

As the series chair for the Black History Month collection for Psychiatric TimesTM, it is my hope that this curated collection will serve as inspiration for those moving forward in their quest to higher education and self-awareness (Sidebar). The pool of mentorship began with a single drop in my mother’s generation. May it flow and flourish into an enormous ocean of many colors in the generations to come:

What do you think? Share feedback with your colleagues by emailing PTEditor@mmhgroup.com. Comments may be shared online pending review and editing for style.

Dr Clark is Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine-Greenville and Medical Director & Division Chief for Adult Inpatient and Consult-Liaison Services for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Prisma Health-Upstate. He currently serves on the APA Task Force to Address Structural Racism Throughout Psychiatry as well as the Diversity & Inclusion Section Editor and Advisory Board member for Psychiatric TimesTM.