Model help!


I’ve been doing a lot of self reflecting around racism and general life experiences I’ve had. I went back to an email thread exchange that I had with one of my mentors. At the time he had written me a very nice and detailed letter of recommendation for a research award that I was applying to. The idea was that if I got the award, I would have the funding to join his lab. The plan was all in place, and a few months later I found out that I did in fact get it! I wrote him to just let him know the good news and to plan to meet and discuss the logistics of joining his lab. He wrote back with a whole “Unfortunately I no longer have room in the lab as I have hired a post-doc and a 3rd grad student also joined in the meantime…we could still figure out a way to work together…if i’m being honest, I have my doubts about your ability to push an independent project forward given your clinical obligation…but when we meet I hope you take that opportunity to show me how wrong I am…Seriously, prove me wrong! :-)”. That smily face at the end was just so infuriating – like we are just having a fun time wreaking my plans. After having planned my life around joining his lab and having trusted that he would hold up his side of the agreement, I was left scrambling for a different lab and it put me behind in my plans. I felt abandoned and very disappointed in him. I knew that what I had been able to accomplish wouldn’t meet his expectations – he is younger than me, we both have MD/PhD degrees but he already has his own very successful lab with grants and endowments coming out of his ears. I can’t compete with that, nor do I want to. But I interpreted his email as a challenge to step up to his level. He already told me he doesn’t have space, and I didn’t want to work with someone who already had doubts about me. So I saw it in the end as a good thing to find out earlier than later. I’m in a new lab now and very happy to just continue a collaboration with him, and not have him as a direct supervisor. All this to say, I now have thoughts that I need to use this opportunity to educate him about his way of talking to underrepresented women in science and medicine – I had the resilience to continue on, but not everyone does and I want to help him see how his comments can be interpreted and what consequence that has for diversity in our field. I mostly want to DO something to help. Does this model sound right? Are there other models you see in my story that would be helpful for me to work through?

C: He wrote “Seriously. Prove me wrong! :-)” at the end of his email
T: what a fucking douchebag to ask me to prove myself to him when I’ve had to do that my whole life to reach where I’m at right now.
F: anger
A: write him an angry email point out his issues to him (didn’t send it to him). Push him away and move ahead on my own. Reinforce the thoughts that white men don’t believe I can do it and that I need to prove something to them before they take a chance on believing in me.
R: I doubt myself and ability to prove myself to others.

C: He wrote “Seriously. Prove me wrong! :-)” at the end of his email
T: He has no idea that I’ve been proving others wrong my whole life and that I’m sick and tired of people doubting me being the default.
F: pity
A: take time to thoughtfully point out where his doubts about my ability are what propagate the self-doubt and imposter syndrome that plagues science and medicine. Share my experience being a minority in medicine and that opinions such as his don’t help, but instead hinder progress. Point out to him his own bias about what he is interpreting as a “successful scientist” is his personal experience living a life of white privilege in a world that has assumed success as the default and not failure. Share with him my goals of being an example for what is possible to many other future hispanic girls in the world who are hopefully given tools to be better equipped to “impress” and “prove the white men of the world wrong.” Explain that not all success looks like his example of success. Suggest that he open his mind to other possibilities and share that the doubt that he is adding onto my own baseline self-doubt doesn’t inspire change, but instead represses it.
R: I open up and share my perspective