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Video: Mentoring and the power of presence

When Eladio Abreu set out to become a biologist, he says it seemed to him like a thing of science fiction. Abreu didn’t know any Black scientists and he often wondered if he’d chosen the right path. However, mentors from his studies at Morehouse College and the University of Georgia encouraged him to keep going.

Now, as a senior lecturer in Emory’s Department of Biology, Abreu strives to be the mentor he always needed.  

Seeing Abreu sport his Polo tees and Air Jordan sneakers turned on the light for Emory College senior Damon Ross. Before the start of his first year, Ross attended the STEM Pathways pre-orientation program and sat in on Abreu’s biology lecture. He felt inspired: If Abreu could bring his authentic self to a lab environment, so could he.  

The two have developed a mentor-mentee relationship over the last four years. Ross took biology and biochemistry with Abreu and says that Abreu helped him chart his academic course and prepare for the MCAT. Now, Ross is a learning assistant for Abreu’s classes and a mentor in the MORE program.

As Ross looks forward to graduation and eagerly awaits medical school admissions decisions, the two discuss the importance of mentorship and support for academic success.

Reflecting on his own career path, Abreu says, “I thought I was going to have to change everything about me — the way I talk, the way I dress, the way I wear my hair — to be successful in academia.... But you can be successful and be who you are.”

“You would think as you get into higher positions, you have to put on a button-down and tie, but you don’t have to,” Ross says. “[Because of you,] when I mentor students, I’m able to tell them that.” 

Watch the video above for more of their conversation.

Update: Damon Ross will be attending Howard University College of Medicine in the fall.

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