Having a mentor should be an essential element for emerging rheumatologists working in clinical, research and teaching environments. Mentoring is especially important as a projected workforce shortage looms and burnout becomes a more recognized reality in daily practice, according to Antony Rosen, MBChB, MS, director of the Division of Rheumatology, vice dean for research, and professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore. He was also the recipient of the ACR’s 2018 Excellence in Investigative Mentoring Award.1
Dr. Rosen sees a significant need for more mentoring in rheumatologic care, as well as a need for greater focus on strengthening mentor–mentee relationships.
The Need for Mentoring
Because human disease is highly heterogenous, what defines the features and evolution of each patient’s diseases varies over time. Dr. Rosen believes “the more patients you see and the longer you follow a patient and interact with them, the more you discern the nuances to address their biology, as well as their spirit.”
These more artful skills of rheumatologic care are not necessarily gained in early training, he acknowledges.
“We must also recognize the challenges an early career rheumatologist often faces,” Dr. Rosen says. “Emerging to be independent is difficult in a professional world and in a field that is competitive, resource-constrained and is filled with moments of rejection.”
Build Mentoring Skills
To help rheumatology mentees grow their careers and build resilience, Dr. Rosen suggests experienced rheumatologists with an interest in mentoring consider ways to support an emerging colleague.
1. Look for mentoring opportunities in clinical and research settings: While the art of rheumatology in clinical care may focus on the patient’s holistic needs, research mentoring may be more about building your mentee’s data analysis skills, grant writing knowledge and ability to manage time and finances, Dr. Rosen says.
2. Take a team approach: Consider collaborating with several mentors to support one mentee in different aspects of growth, he says. Example: If an emerging rheumatologist is interested in specializing in scleroderma, they could have a mentor in scleroderma care, as well as a laboratory mentor who specializes in rheumatology and/or a laboratory mentor outside of rheumatology.
“Team mentoring is becoming more common, but it’s probably not done enough,” Dr. Rosen says. Having a team of mentors also helps the mentee understand the different approaches to model and may help them identify a better fit with one mentor over the other, he notes.
3. Find the right fit: “Adopting a mentee is a significant commitment, and you need to care about the future success of your mentee as much as you care about your own career,” he says. Dr. Rosen suggests taking time to shape a mentor–mentee relationship to ensure an amiable match for both parties.