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A Coaching Relationship

Posted on December 21, 2009

Jacqueline Resnick (bio) talks about the development of an important friendship.


One of the unique mentorships that really is a coaching relationship, not a mentorship, was established about 30 years ago with a woman who was currently the chair of Family Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, and that's Dr. Jeannette South-Paul.

At that time I was working in a research coordinator's capacity at the med school and was an advisor to Dr. South-Paul with regards to her research. And during that period of time, you know how you just click with people. Well we just clicked, and that relationship built and built and we talked about research.

At that time she was actually in the military, and she was the president or became the president of the Uniformed Services Academy of Family Physicians, and also became chair of Family Medicine at the Uniformed Services Medical School in Bethesda. And she became a very renowned clinician researcher in the military world and in the federal agency world; people looked to her. She's amazing actually. And she was looking at building the research when she was president of the academy, within the academy, and asked me if I would come to D.C. to the Uniformed Services medical school to help work with them.

I'll give you a little aside that I may have mentioned when I was at the conference, and that is you have to remember I come out of Berkeley of the '60s. So at that time I thought, "Oh, the military, that'll be so politically opposite to my beliefs. I can't fit in." I said, "No, no, Jeannette. You're talking to a '60s Berkeley person. I'm not the right person," and she said, "Just come up once."

So I decided to do that at her request, and when I got up there the first thing I saw were these young medical students in fatigues and I thought, "Oh, I'm in the wrong place." And I sat down and met with people there. That relationship has now gone on for over 20 years. I'm still working with the Uniformed Services Academy of Family Physicians, even though Jeannette is now at Pittsburgh, and I have gone to Pittsburgh to work with her program there as well.

She saw something in me that I didn't realize, and she mentored that process so that I opened my eyes and my world to really more inclusively understand cultures. I always did it. I always talked about it, but I had never realized that I had been limited like a lot of people to the political philosophy that was comfortable.

What I learned was the sense of humanity that exists in the military and within, particularly within the medical arena in providing fair, just and accessible health care, to treating families, to understanding the human condition, and that's been a relationship that today our families are close. We just saw each other. We meet all the time. We talk by e-mail and by phone at least two or three times a month and I treasure that. So there are wonderful things that can happen when you open your eyes.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in September, 2009.


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