Seventh in a Series: Mentorship in Medicine is Essential

Post By Ariela Marshall, MD

November 27, 2018

As physicians, we try our best help those in need, and I personally feel a strong calling to do all I can for my students and trainees who are trying to establish successful and rewarding careers in medicine.  

A few years back, I worked with a research fellow on several projects.  She was the one of the most talented and dedicated trainees I have ever met.  She initially hoped to apply for a residency in pediatrics, but after much introspection she finally “confessed” that she felt pathology was a better match.  She was afraid that I might not support her in a different career choice. I wholeheartedly supported her, wrote her a very strong letter of recommendation, and personally contacted the Program Director to offer my support.  She matched at her top choice program and I felt an immense sense of deep personal satisfaction. This, to me is the essence of “mentorship” in medicine – the drive and passion to devote ones’ time, effort, and influence to help our mentees succeed.

The mentor-mentee relationship can be difficult to navigate due to a number of factors including time pressures, lack of clarity of the goals of the relationship, and differences in personality, work style, and expectations.  I would like to offer a few suggestions for those medical students, trainees, and young faculty searching for fruitful mentoring relationships:

  1. Interview potential mentors: Schedule a meeting with anyone you are considering as a mentor.  As them about their background, personality style, what they are passionate about, and – often overlooked – their availability.  
  2. Build a “panel” of mentors: Don’t restrict yourself to a single mentor!  Look for inspiring mentors for career development, work-life integration, research, etc; this doesn’t necessarily need to be limited to those at your institution or even in medicine at all!
  3. Develop and communicate clear goals and objectives: Clearly ask if a potential mentor has the time and focus to serve as a mentor, and discuss two or three of the things you hope to get from AND contribute to the relationship.  
  4. Schedule regular check-ins:  Schedule regular meetings with your mentor.  They don’t always have to be in person; phone or email check-ins every 2-3 months are helpful to keep each other updated of progress, challenges, and changes in goals/direction.

Mentorship is essential for career development, wellbeing, and success as physicians.  It is never too early to start looking for your panel of mentors. They will be a source of support for many years to come.  As a mentee keep in mind that your successes are a source of pride for your mentors, and your failures are something not to hide but to discuss and learn from together.  Physicians should make a conscious effort to support and uplift each other, and a strong mentor-mentee relationship is one of the most fulfilling ways I can think of to do this!

By Dr. Ariela Marshall

Hematology Physician, Educator, Mentor


Dr. Ariela Marshall is a guest blogger for InCrowd this month. This is a part of a series of women in medicine sharing their experiences in the medical field.  Check our blog for upcoming pieces and you can find our previous pieces here:

First in a Series : What Does It Mean to be a Woman in Medicine?

Second in a Series: No Child Left Behind

Third in a Series : Sexism and Saving Lives

Fourth in a Series : Lipstick and Life Lessons

Fifth in a Series : “And..How Old Are You?”

Sixth in a Series: The Non-Medical Profession That Completely Changed How I Practice Medicine

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