From Mentee to Mentor
Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Over the past five years, I have grown professionally under the mentorship of Dr. Veronica Ades. As I prepare to take on residency and, with it, mentees of my own, I have dissected my experience to identify elements that contributed to this fruitful relationship.
Connect mentees to helpful contacts.
One of the most important ways Dr. Ades contributed to my success was by sharing her contacts: a department chair who set me up with a research project abroad, an analyst who guided me through the process of developing a survey and database for the first time, a research assistant who reviewed my IRB before submission, and the list goes on. Though she could have guided me through all of these tasks, directing me to these contacts empowered me to take more ownership and provided me with the building blocks I would need for any future projects. It also allowed us to use our time together for troubleshooting, refinement of methodology, and the identification of applications and limitations of the work — on getting a “big picture” view.
Provide a template and let the mentee to do the work.
Along similar lines, providing physical resources, such as IRBs of previously completed research projects and educational applications, is an efficient way to use mentorship time. Doing so saved me from countless hours of struggling on my own and gave me confidence that I was on the right track.
Most doctors are juggling multiple responsibilities, but the fact that Dr. Ades always responded promptly signaled her investment and motivated me to push myself even harder. Checking in on milestones or deadlines is another way to signal investment in a mentee.
Focus on the process, rather than the product.
Something that I find to be uncommon, but that I will always carry with me, is how Dr. Ades focused on the process of developing specific skills. Part of the way she did this was by providing resources and letting me do the work, as I mentioned before. I had the opportunity to design my own study, write the IRB, develop a survey and data base, coordinate with research partners, and analyze data with her guidance. This required trial and error on my part. Since I was relatively new to research, I didn’t always do things right the first time. Maybe it took her some restraint to not step in. But rather than framing these trials as failures, she complimented my “initiative.” If that is not a word that inspires mentees to push themselves, I don’t know what is.
During medical school, Dr. Ades provided me with longitudinal support in an otherwise chaotic and high-stress environment. I acknowledge that I will have limited time to mentor in residency. However, I hope to model my mentorship style on what I found helpful as medical student to contribute to a rich training environment for others: sharing educational resources and templates for self-guided learning, connecting students to helpful contacts, concentrating my feedback on students’ process and reasoning, and responding to questions and concerns in a timely manner.