In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 19, 2021

Voices of Mayo: Jamal Khan on the value of mentorship, paying it forward by being a mentor

By In the Loop
Jamal Khan

Voices of Mayo is a series that highlights Mayo staff and their stories, exploring their diverse backgrounds, the challenges they face, the opportunities they have been given, and their experiences at Mayo Clinic.

Jamal Khan had never really imagined a career for himself in health care since his perception of the field was limited to direct patient care. That changed when he began researching Mayo Clinic and the opportunities it offered.

Since coming to Mayo Clinic, Khan, an operations manager in Occupational Health Services, has learned firsthand the value of mentorship, and he is paying it forward by being a mentor himself.

Read his story.

I grew up in the Twin Cities, and I was a first-generation college graduate and McNair scholar who didn't have a plan for what my career would look like.

As a kid, I never really had a specific blueprint that I wanted to follow. Instead, I tried to use my imagination to dream big, make my own path and see where life could take me. I credit this "anything is possible" mindset to my parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Guyana, a small country in South America, with hopes of providing greater opportunities for my siblings and me.

My parents experienced their fair share of struggles, challenges and unfortunate setbacks. But their ideology of viewing life as a book that is filled with undefined adventures rather than a predefined history never wavered. Whether I wanted to become a professional athlete, an astronaut or work for the No. 1-ranked hospital in the world, they taught me from an early age that if I dreamed big, worked hard and never forgot where I came from, anything was possible.

Of course, not every dream I had came to fruition. But through varied experiences, I have been fortunate to meet incredible people, make lasting memories and learn a limitless amount of information. I credit this in helping me grow as a person ― from working overnight shifts at a grocery store, to volunteering as a technology mentor for at-risk youth, to being a basketball coach in the community, and now in my current role as an operations manager in Occupational Health Services.

You learn so much about what motivates and drives you through diverse experiences. It is empowering and enlightening to meet people from all walks of life, and to see the unique genius that everyone has to offer.

Regardless of role, title or race, or background or stature, there are certain traits that people have that are truly captivating. I credit those experiences with helping me find my passion and purpose for my work, which I define as helping people.

Life at Mayo Clinic

I have always had a great admiration for Mayo Clinic. Its reputation precedes itself, and I was at a point in my career where I was looking for an opportunity to help people through the use of data, analytics, innovation and research.

I used to view health care in a one-dimensional light. I associated health care with clinical visits, and that was it.

Being that I was not a provider, I had very little interest in working in the field, as I didn't see how my skill set would fit. But as I began to do my research about Mayo Clinic, I quickly found myself really excited to explore opportunities and join the organization. It is a melting pot of ideas from forward-thinkers, and that resonated well with what I wanted in a career.

"Time is such a valuable commodity, and when people are willing to share their time to offer insight into a problem, share a laugh, listen to a frustration or grab a cup of coffee, it is a humbling experience."

Jamal Khan

I consider myself to be someone with many interests and ideas, and to have an opportunity to join a team where I could take part in several projects that were directly and indirectly focused on meeting the needs of patients was appealing to me.

I have had many highlights since being at Mayo. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an example that showcases how amazing Mayo is. We were forced to transform the way we think, act and operate, and we had to be willing to adapt to everything that was happening around us. Yet, even amid all the chaos, we were still able to support our staff, help our patients and address outstanding issues that were happening in our communities related to inequities and inclusion.

Being able to witness the collaborative partnerships through every level, every shield at Mayo, and the support and togetherness — that was a major highlight for me and something that I am very proud of.

Mentoring to pay it forward

While at Mayo, I have been fortunate to have some unbelievable mentors from all levels. They have provided encouragement and support, and helped build my self-efficacy personally and professionally. Time is such a valuable commodity, and when people are willing to share their time to offer insight into a problem, share a laugh, listen to a frustration or grab a cup of coffee, it is a humbling experience.

I often compare my career to a soccer match, meaning that it is running time. It doesn't last forever. It's important to make your shots matter and above all else enjoy the experience of being in the game.

"I am a firm believer that our authenticity is what drives our creativity, and that can only happen if you are true to who you are."

Jamal Khan

That is a metaphor that I really hold to be true. It has been a quality that I have tried to emulate in my mentorship. Reciprocating the same level of energy and support that I have received from others inside and outside of our institution is something I feel obligated to do.

It is such a gratifying feeling to help others succeed, reach a goal or accomplish something they didn't think they could do otherwise, and provide a level of mentorship that may stay with them for a lifetime. I think that is what is so cool about our organization. We have a culture that is built on sharing knowledge, having discussions and framing problems as puzzles that we all can contribute to.

My one piece of advice to anyone is to always have the courage to be yourself. I am a firm believer that our authenticity is what drives our creativity, and that can only happen if you are true to who you are. So never be afraid to fearlessly be yourself.

Tags: Employee Stories, Jamal Khan, Voices of Mayo

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