Dynamic Duos #UMKCGoingPlaces

Blake Montgomery, left, and Mudassar Zia. Photo by Janet Rogers, Strategic Marketing and Communications

The newest chapter of UMKC’s student storytelling series is all about mentorship

UMKC550Many successful people give generous credit for their achievements to the guidance of mentors who counseled them as young adults. At the University of Missouri–Kansas City, mentorship is a vital part of the educational experience. One of the common threads in the ongoing Our Students. Our Story. #UMKCGoingPlaces series on the UMKC site and tumblr is how students appreciate the work of their mentors.

To focus even more on those crucial mentorship relationships, we’re introducing another regular feature: Dynamic Duos. In interviews and images, we’ll give you an intimate look at faculty/staff-and-student mentorship pairs at UMKC.

Read the other Dynamic Duos articles.


Step inside the UMKC School of Medicine, and you’ll notice five jewel-toned sections: red, green, purple, blue and gold. These are docent units with individual offices and a common area where up to a dozen medical students learn together. A docent — a mentor physician — is assigned to the third-year medical students, a key component of the School of Medicine’s innovative six-year BA/MD program.

Based in the green unit, Blake Montgomery, who is graduating in May, is heading to Stanford for his orthopedic surgery residency. His medical training has included a summer program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and a year of working alongside researchers in the Surgical Neurology Branch at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Montgomery also recently married a woman who had been his medical school classmate, Katy Montgomery, who is conducting her pediatrics residency at Children’s Mercy.

Montgomery didn’t have all of the answers. Montgomery says his docent mentor, Mudassar Zia, an internal medicine physician, has made a huge difference in pursuing his goals. This has included everything from narrowing his specialty and where to apply for residencies to balancing life at home.

After completing a fellowship at Duke University, Zia joined UMKC faculty in 2010, about the same time Montgomery began at UMKC.

What makes Dr. Zia the right mentor for you?

Blake Montgomery: He was a perfect match for me. I’m always like ‘that guy knows everything!’

He came to America from Pakistan to complete his medical training, yet he is so cultured and understanding on topics that people who grew up in the U.S. might not know about. For example, the African American community. He reads so much.

Also, he has been willing to help me think outside of the box for my medical education. He was extremely supportive and helpful when I took a year off for an NIH research opportunity.

No way would I be the same person without knowing him and working with him.

What do you think about Blake getting a residency at Stanford?

Mudassar Zia: I am not surprised at all that Blake matched at Stanford for orthopedic surgery residency. He is a very talented and hard-working student, and does not take success in life for granted.

What led you to UMKC?

Montgomery: I chose UMKC because of the excellent training opportunities and the wonderful reputation it has in the region. I knew I would get early clinical exposure and hands-on training, which was very unique when compared to other medical training institutions. I was also impressed with Kansas City and all it had to offer.

Where is UMKC taking you?

Montgomery: UMKC has provided an excellent platform for learning clinical medicine. It has fostered and facilitated life-long learning and has prepared me to take the next step beyond medical school. I am in pursuit of a career in orthopedic surgery.

What changes have you seen in Blake from when he started to where he is now?

Zia: Over the years, I have seen Blake develop further into a thoughtful young man. He has maintained his enthusiasm to acquire more experience in his medical career and at the same time has grown by leaps and bounds as a person of integrity and great character.

What’s your favorite part about being a mentor to Blake and other future physicians?

Zia: The students who work closely with me on my docent unit for four years transform from a stage of raw talent to polished young physicians. Seeing them succeed in their endeavors is the most satisfying part of being a mentor.

How are you different now than when you first started at UMKC?

Montgomery: UMKC has enabled me to grow both personally and professionally. I have held many leadership positions during my time here at UMKC. I now feel much more comfortable serving in various leadership positions and actively pursue these roles. I have been seeing patients for years and have completed the majority of medical school classes and rotations. My medical knowledge and patient communication skills have increased substantially since my arrival to UMKC.

How did you choose studying medicine?

Montgomery: I was introduced to medicine in third grade after reading the biography of Dr. Benjamin Carson. Since that time I knew I wanted to be a doctor. While in high school, I suffered a shoulder injury, which required surgery. During the process of my treatment and recovery I gained exposure to orthopedic surgery. After I recovered, I shadowed my orthopedic surgeon multiple times. Seeing how he helped patients and seeing how much a difference he made in their lives further solidified my desire to become a physician.

What do you think of the docent system at the UMKC School of Medicine?

Montgomery: The docent system is a wonderful and unique part of the UMKC curriculum structure and design. The docent is a physician who serves as a teacher and mentor and helps to guide a group of about 12 medical students as they progress through medical school. In many medical schools, students are often rotated between many rotations without much continuity with physicians. The docent system allows the opportunity to learn and receive feedback from one physician throughout medical school. This plays an important role in growth and development throughout the years.

How has your docent helped you choose your medical specialty?

Montgomery: As a junior medical student, my docent, Dr. Zia, asked me which specialty I was interested in pursuing. He advocated for early exposure to multiple different specialties and was instrumental in my final decision to pursue orthopedic surgery. He met with me continually throughout my training to assess if my goals had changed and to ensure I was on the right path to reach my career goals.

How has Dr. Zia challenged you?

Montgomery: During down times in clinic or on our docent unit, Dr. Zia commonly asks clinical questions. The questions vary in difficulty, but sometimes pose a challenge to even the most senior medical students. His questions motivate all of his students to read more about the patients and take medical student learning to the next level.

How has Dr. Zia inspired you?

Montgomery: Dr. Zia’s clinical knowledge is simply outstanding. Not only does he keep up with the literature and changes in medicine, he also remembers many of the previous changes and can educate students on when certain advances were made and why. Also, it is not uncommon that I find myself learning things that are very intriguing but outside of medicine like the physics behind airplane flight, or history and politics in the United States as well as many foreign countries.

Dr. Zia’s work ethic is unparalleled. He shows up early in the morning for patient rounds inside the hospital, then sometimes heads to clinic and administrative meetings. His days are usually jam-packed, but I have never heard him complain.

Aside from Dr. Zia’s knowledge and work ethic, I also admire his compassionate delivery of care and ability to make time for his family.

How has Dr. Zia helped you grow as a person?

Montgomery: Dr. Zia is very passionate about being a docent. He makes a point to get to know all of his students on a personal level and wants to ensure we all succeed. He exemplifies life-long learning and excellent patient care and has helped me define how I want to practice medicine.

What do you think about Blake’s future?

Zia: Blake has had a great match (at Stanford) and he has the right aptitude and work ethic to be a leader and authority in the field of orthopedic surgery in future.

How does it feel to mentor future physicians?

Zia: In my opinion, there is no other experience like mentoring students at UMKC. I feel with every student that graduates from the program, I have a chance to give back to the community which has blessed me with so much.

Some people go their whole lives without having a mentor. What advice would you give people about finding one?

Montgomery: A mentor can absolutely help growth and development as people progress toward their career goals. Their personal experience may provide guidance that would be hard to find in a book or elsewhere. I would encourage people to actively search for a mentor — their help could be instrumental in achieving success.




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