Carnegie Mellon University

Alumna Reminded of Lasting Impact of Mentorship from Carnegie Mellon

January 05, 2018

Alumna Reminded of Lasting Impact of Mentorship from Carnegie Mellon

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy

In a correspondence simply titled “Late Nights with CMU alums,” William Alba received a welcome reminder from a former student about the lasting impact of his mentorship at Carnegie Mellon University.

Devin Prior (S 2011) met Alba on her first visit to campus after being accepted into the Science and Humanities Scholars (SHS) program, which Alba directs. A fire drill in Doherty Hall left the pair outside on a rainy Pittsburgh day; Alba took the unforeseen opportunity to introduce Prior to biological sciences and chemistry faculty around campus and tell her about the interdisciplinary classes and activities he had been organizing for SHS students.

“I felt Dr. Alba would be a great mentor who would both advocate for my needs and challenge me to expand my interests and skills,” Prior said of how he influenced her decision to attend Carnegie Mellon. Alba continually did just that throughout her undergraduate career, Prior said, by encouraging her to get involved in the interdisciplinary housing community, attend the university lecture series and explore community service and research opportunities.

Prior moved onto medical school at the Ohio State University. She graduated in 2015 and began a residency in neurology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

As part of her residency, Prior collaborates with Dr. Clifford Eskey, an interventional radiologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, on stroke patients for whom he does interventional thrombectomys.

Prior said when she first began working with Eskey, she was in awe of his ability to consistently think critically in extremely time sensitive situations; it gave her a sense of familiarity with him that she couldn’t quite place.

That is until she learned that Eskey earned his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering. She recognized that his strengths mirrored what Carnegie Mellon had also taught her — how to “work effectively with diverse teams, to solve problems efficiently under resource and time constraints, to explore and identify new relationships, to invent new styles of problem solving, to seek out mentorship.”

Another aspect of Prior’s residency is to examine cases where a stroke patient may be a candidate for an interventional procedure, for which she often consults with Eskey. “Even when I am calling him at 3 a.m., he takes time to go over the case critically, examine all the data and determine what the best treatment option is for the patient, which may be an interventional procedure that he would then come into the hospital and perform,” said Prior.

These late-night calls are what inspired Prior to reach out to her former mentor.

“I e-mailed Dr. Alba partially because I missed his mentorship, but mostly because I wanted to thank him for everything that he has done for me,” she said.

Messages from alumni are some of Alba’s favorite correspondence to receive. “It’s wonderful to hear from alumni, to catch up and see how they’ve changed and grown,” Alba said. “But it’s also affirming for me to see that the work that I do is important and meaningful to my students.”

Though addressed to him, Alba felt that Prior’s story would resonate with others. “Devin’s note was really about CMU as a whole. She has a perspective about what her education has given her that I thought was worth sharing,” he said.

And for Alba, it showed him that even though his students may leave his care, they don’t soon forget his mentorship.