Lighting The Way: How One AdventHealth Physician Inspires The Next Generation Of Doctors Through Mentoring

Dr. Nathalie McKenzie
Dr. McKenzie (bottom right) on a zoom meeting speed mentoring internationally through her affiliation with the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Dr. Nnamdi Gwacham graduates from the AdventHealth Gynecologic Oncology Fellowship Program in July 2023 where Dr. McKenzie is the program director.
Dr. McKenzie’s (in yellow scrubs) last mission trip to Haiti to lend her surgical expertise to other physicians in an effort to mentor local professionals and improve healthcare in the country.

BY KRISTI POWERS, AdventHealth Central Florida Division, External Manager for Cancer, Cardiac and Digestive Health

CENTRAL FLORIDA – It’s late in the evening for Dr. Nathalie McKenzie, gynecologic oncologist at the AdventHealth Cancer Institute, yet her day is not over. She grabs water, sits down in front of her computer and logs on to a Zoom call, but this is no typical meeting – this is one of her passions.

“Giving back by mentoring brings me joy knowing that I’m sharing knowledge to help save lives,” said McKenzie. “I didn’t have access to this type of mentorship when I went through my training, and I want to be able to open doors for these budding physicians who can make difference.”

Dr. McKenzie’s dedication extends far beyond the walls of AdventHealth. Collaborating with gynecologic oncologists at Harvard Massachusetts General Hospital and International Society of Gynecologic Cancer, she mentors physicians in developing countries to better care for women with gynecologic cancers. Despite the challenges, she ensures these mentoring sessions happen weekly, currently through multinational Zoom sessions. She also occasionally visits low-resource countries to offer her expertise. Her last in-person visit was to Haiti in 2020, leaving an indelible impact on local medical professionals.

During these sessions, McKenzie dives deep into discussing cases of the week, soliciting thoughts on procedures and surgeries, and offering invaluable advice on the proper next steps. Her commitment to mentorship extends beyond surgical skills, to recently, the research field. Her invitation to the American Association Cancer for Research in July 2023 marked a milestone in her mentoring journey, where she coached young, promising cancer researchers through their clinical trial proposals.

“Mentoring has many facets; it’s one thing to mentor, but it’s special when you can follow through and make a difference in a mentee’s trajectory,” Dr. McKenzie emphasizes. “When we mentor, we must also be prepared to make introductions, assist with networking, and teach these skills to identify opportunities for our mentees.”

“Dr. McKenzie’s guidance has been pivotal in shaping my journey from fellowship to practice,” said Dr. Nnamdi Gwacham, who was one of Dr. McKenzie’s fellows and is now the assistant professor in surgery for gynecologic oncology at City of Hope in Phoenix, Arizona. “She not only recognized my potential but also nurtured it, pushing me to bloom in my career. Her unwavering support, constructive feedback, and opportunities for growth have been invaluable. I am grateful for her mentorship as it continues to guide me through uncharted territory, instilling confidence and refining my skills as a gynecologic oncologist in my new position.”

Within AdventHealth, Dr. McKenzie serves as the Gynecologic Fellowship Director, ensuring the next generation of specialists receives comprehensive training. In addition to that work, she has mentored hundreds of medical students, residents, fellows, and early-career physicians over the last two decades, shaping the landscape of health care both locally and globally.

Dr. McKenzie sees Women’s History Month as more than just a time to reflect. “Our country, and society, has made significant strides toward increasing access to career opportunities for women,” she says. “I’m grateful for those opportunities because it’s allowed me to pursue my passion, and I hope I can inspire other women to step into the light and lead in the medical field.”