A unique benefit that mentors possess is a detailed understanding of the field and personal and professional contacts that can significantly benefit the mentee. “What might take years to develop independently can sometimes be accomplished at one meeting with the right introductions,” Dr. Koster says. “Mentors can also be a sounding board for ideas, improve mentee performance through valuable feedback and refine a mentee’s clinical and life skills for effective practice. They will also get a foundation for learning good mentoring behaviors that can be used to mentor others.”
Having More Than One Mentor
Even if you have an “official” mentor, you can always spend time with and learn from others around you, Dr. Bujor says, as it is unlikely that you will find that one person who is best at everything. One may have excellent bedside manners, another superior knowledge in a certain disease, while someone else may have admirable research skills.
Adds Dr. George, “More experienced mentors may provide a broader perspective and more connections. Younger mentors may be better equipped to provide hands-on help with some of the minutia of the research process.”
Finding mentors outside of the rheumatology department can also be very helpful. “These potential mentors have a different skillset and a different perspective that may provide a new way to answer research questions,” Dr. George says. “A mentor does not need to have exactly the same interests, and sometimes having different interests and strengths is advantageous.”
Advantages of Mentoring
After only a short time working with his current mentor, Dr. Koster was provided opportunities that he did not think would be possible for several years. These include presenting at both national and international conferences, completing invited reviews and book chapters, collaborating with international experts on consensus guidelines and participating in and developing therapeutic trials.
Dr. Bujor has learned the most from her clinical mentor and always feels comfortable asking him questions about cases, even if he is not involved directly in a patient’s care. “He not only offers me the answer, but also helps me reason through it,” she says. “He can openly disagree with other attending physician’s choices, which is a great learning experience for me. He is also confident and logical in his clinical judgment. He is informal and not only advises about clinical situations, but also interpersonal communications in the workplace and physician–patient interactions.”
From a mentor’s perspective, Dr. Warrington says mentorship encourages professional growth through exposure to new ideas. The recognition that is awarded to a fellow also reflects positively on the mentor and drives personal satisfaction. In general, the mentor contributes to the advancement of rheumatology by developing the next generation of talented individuals.