CARG Spotlight: Dr. Reena Jayani, Three Perspectives on the CARG Buddy Program

Reena V. Jayani, MD, is the current chair of the Cancer and Aging Research Group’s Buddy Program Task Force. The CARG Buddy Program provides an avenue for junior researchers interested in advancing geriatric oncology to be paired with senior CARG members, as well as connecting researchers new to the field of geriatric oncology or to a novel subject within geriatric oncology with senior researchers in the field.

Having served as a mentee, mentor, and now as a Buddy Program task force member, we sat down with Dr. Jayani to learn more about her trajectory and experience around mentorship in CARG.

Dr. Jayani, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am an assistant professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where I am the Clinical Director of the Older Adult Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Therapy Clinic, as well as the Director of Long-Term Transplant and Survivorship Clinics.

My research focuses on understanding risk factors for toxicities and strategies for their mitigation, specifically for older adults with hematologic disorders undergoing stem cell transplantation and cellular immunotherapy. Through these mechanisms, my ultimate goal is to improve survival and quality of life with these intensive treatments. I am currently focusing on the impact of mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, on these risks.

How and when did you join CARG, and later the CARG buddy program?
I joined the Cancer and Aging Research Group in 2017. I was a member of the Center for Cancer and Aging at City of Hope at that time, gaining experience in my geriatric oncology research at the time under the mentorship of Dr. Arti Hurria.

I joined the CARG Buddy Program Task Force in March 2021 after an announcement on a CARG biweekly conference call with its members. I have always been interested in the program. I loved the concept of having a “Buddy” within the geriatric oncology world, with a less formal relationship than a “traditional” mentor. Then in early 2022, I had the opportunity to chair the CARG Buddy Program task force.

How and when did you join CARG, and later the CARG buddy program?
Dr. William Dale is my mentor. After Dr. Hurria’s tragic passing in 2018, Dr. Dale stepped up and took over mentoring me. We have worked closely since then. We have completed two manuscripts and four abstracts at national conferences, and are also in the process of submitting a grant together. Additionally, he has been providing some guidance on building a robust geriatric oncology clinical and research program at my institution. We meet weekly and he has incorporated me into his geriatric oncology program.

I have two mentees currently, Drs. Christina Snider and Samuel Sestito.

I began with Dr. Snider early 2021, when she was an intern in internal medicine. We have worked together on a number of projects since then. Most recently Dr. Snider presented a poster at the 2022 Gerontology Society of America Annual Meeting, on healthcare utilization of patients aged 70 and older who have undergone stem cell transplant or chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy.

I have been mentoring Dr. Sestito since early 2022, when he was a third-year internal medicine resident. He is now a geriatric medicine fellow. We are working on several projects together as well. I have mentored him in an education session for geriatrics fellows, on incorporating geriatric medicine into the care of older adults with cancer. This led to a manuscript on communication between geriatricians and oncologists, which is currently underway. He is leading efforts to recognize the Older Adult Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Therapy Clinic as an Age-Friendly Health System.

How and when did you join CARG, and later the CARG buddy program?
There have been so many achievements over the past year. I’d say one major achievement is the multidisciplinary approach we have adopted. We have a multidisciplinary task force and approach each expansion with the importance of cross discipline collaboration in mind. For example, we have built an inquiry form for members interested in being paired with a Buddy keeping in mind that CARG members come from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, each of which have unique needs. As we continue to expand the program, we have collaborated with several of CARG’s six CARinG cores.

We have made a lot of progress over the past year and will continue to build on it. Just last month, we launched the Buddy Program webpage on the CARG website. This webpage contains information about the program, the Task Force members, FAQ’s about being a Buddy, and a request form to be a Buddy. Coming soon to the website are quotes and additional resources for mentoring.

In addition, we are collecting outcomes and feedback from junior Buddies who have been through the program and will be expanding to senior Buddy engagement. We’ll also be reaching out to senior buddies to hear their perspective on what has worked and where we can improve. We are also planning to expand member engagement and engage more members as “senior” Buddies. We receive requests for Buddies from all levels, so there are many opportunities for junior and senior CARG members alike to serve as a “senior” Buddy.

Any final thoughts you would like to leave us with?
No matter how far along someone is in their career, they still need mentors that they can turn to. My mentors have shared with me experiences and advice they received from their mentors when they were mentees and still growing into their own. I never realized how subtle the transition can be to becoming a mentor yourself. It’s not that one minute you are a mentee, and next you are an all-knowing mentor. The reality is that we are all growing every day.

I have heard one of the best ways to thank your mentors for their mentorship, sponsorship, and time is to pay it forward. What better way is there than to be a part of the CARG Buddy Program?


Forgotten Password?