A Day in the Life of a CE: Mylène Dandavino



Mylène Dandavino, MDCM MSc MHPE FRCPS(C) is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and a pediatric hospitalist and clinician educator in Division of General Pediatrics of the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Dr. Dandavino holds two Master’s degrees, earning her first, in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, from McGill University in 2002 and her second, in Health Professions Education (MHPE), from Maastricht University during her fellowship in General Academic Pediatrics in The Netherlands, in 2010. She is also an Associate Member of the Institute of Health Sciences Education.

Finding Motivation and Inspiration in the Next Generation

When asked what inspires her, she expresses that both the children she works with and the trainees she supervises share a commonality, and that is “the energy they transfer back to me when I am alongside them.”

She credits her main motivation as a pediatrician to the resilience (both physical and mental) of children and their parents. She strongly believes that all ill children are entitled to the highest-quality care, provided by the right team, in the right place, at the right time. 

She delights in seeing her trainees grow, and finds great enjoyment in mentoring and supervising trainees in their discovery of the field of medical education, whether through scholarly projects or electives. “Watching them discover their career paths and own professional passion is a key aspect of why I cherish my job as a CE . For some of our core trainees, it is happening in front of our eyes, as they change and evolve from one clinical rotation to another.”

She shares one of the moments where she received inspiration in return: while reading thought her trainees’ evaluations while preparing her promotion dossier, she was struck by how they saw her as a coach and role model. This prompted her to start teaching about leadership more explicitly, resulting in an increase in satisfaction in her professional life.

Aligning her many roles

Dr. Dandavino admits to experiencing some challenges with her diversified work load and having to distribute her time between her clinical and non-clinical responsibilities.  “I used to feel a bit confused. I took on a leadership role very early in my career, so I have had these various hats since the beginning of my practice.” She felt that her roles of clinician-educator-administrator were disjointed: “I was searching for who I truly was ….my training in medical education did not necessarily align with (or prepare me for) my manager role. I had to make peace with the three hats I wore and find a way to align them.”

She estimates she spends 40 per cent of her time on clinical practice, another 40 per cent on administrative work, 15 per cent in teaching activities, and the remaining 5 per cent on education-related scholarly work”. She shares her belief that the term ‘research’ is intimidating for CE-administrators like her, who focus their creative energies on clinical innovation and the enhancement of the education environment as part of their administrator role. For this reason, she prefers the term ‘scholarly work’ better – to her, this means sharing what is done with a recognizable amount of peer review.

Mylène shares another tip to her success: “Getting a dynamic and proactive administrative assistant also really helped get my schedule under control. I focus on the content, and she takes care of the formatting, which saves me time.”

Rebuffing the Status Quo

Mylène is visionary who likes to think about next steps, projects ideas, new ways to do things, admitting she easily gets bored with routine: “It’s a must to enjoy the diversity in my career. I dislike the status quo, and I love progress!” Her administrative role as Program Head of Medical Inpatient Services at the Montreal Children Hospital has led her to involve medical trainees in quality-of-care improvement projects and awakened her curiosity in finding ways to enhance leadership skills in medical trainees. She has led several local innovations in medical education and believes that clinician educators are advocates of the importance of scholarly work and evidence-informed practices in medical education – something she strives to to role model to her trainees.

While on service, she stays focused on her patients and trainees; but spends her free time reactivating projects, creating new plans, and finding something else to dream about. She ends by saying that is why being a hospitalist is a perfect job for her. “You are either on or not!”

Three tips for Junior CEs: Be honest with yourself, organize our workflow and know who you are.

  1. Be honest with who you are and where you want to go, and do not get into roles or projects that don’t fit with either. Of course, in the beginning, the best way to say no is to blame your decision on someone else: “I spoke with my mentor, and she thinks that it’s not the right time…” or “Because one of my colleagues is going on leave, I do not have the capacity right now…”. But eventually, you will be confident enough to ‘just say ‘no’’!
  2. Organize your workflow to make your work and non-work lives easier. Take the time to reflect on ways to do this, ask your colleagues what their tips are, but don’t wait to be sinking in To Do lists. Time management apps, shared calendars, automatic money transfers, meal prep shortcuts, whatever takes away mental load, will help. Did I mention I have three school-aged boys? So be clever about ways to help yourself even if it costs a little money. And sometimes we must bring work stuff at home and do home stuff at work. If it works for you, it’s okay!
  3. Know what type of individual you are, your values, beliefs, and try to be comfortable with what you uniquely bring to your work as a CE. Everyone is different, and we all differ in our strengths. Many free personality tests out there can help you understand who you are and why you react in specific ways. I like the Insights test. I suggest you make your regular team members do the test too and discuss the results. It will help you understand their reactions so that you can work together better. It is impressive to see how well a team can work when each member’s skill set, and strengths are genuinely tapped into. And there is nothing more motivating than working in a team that functions well.

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