Obtaining Mentorship During COVID-19

Amiethab Aiyer, MD | Jonathan Kaplan, MD | Matthew Varacallo, MD

June 10, 2020

Finding the right mentors in medicine has traditionally required hours of face to face interaction in order to build personal relationships. However, what happens when we are no longer able to spend integral in-person time with our potential future mentors? Like the rest of the healthcare world, we must evolve by incorporating technology and connectivity to build relationships in the COVID-19 era. Here are a few key principles with which to build a foundation for obtaining mentorship (applicable regardless of the times) but with an added ‘twist’ of advice to be successful during COVID-19. It’s critical to remember that mentorship is a longitudinal process that takes the investment of time & effort by student and teacher (or faculty):

1Identifying Potential Mentors

One of the biggest challenges in obtaining a valuable mentor is first identifying them as it is important to identify mentors who would best represent you. Regardless of whether there is a pandemic, you can find information online about your potential mentor’s background. You can always start by finding similarities to the mentor and what your eventual goals may be. Use available resources to help cross-reference potential mentors, such as asking more senior medical students, previous students, or current residents which faculty members tend to be better mentors. Additionally, stronger mentors may be evident based on what they are doing during COVID-19 as well.  Consider joining virtual journal clubs, webinars, and other online materials (not just at your home program but also nationwide) to see which faculty members are heavily involved. It is reasonable to presume that the faculty members devoting their time to these educational events are likely to be committed to the advancement of medical students.

2Connecting with Mentors

Once you’ve identified potential mentors, the next step is to initiate contact. Mentorship should grow organically and requires time to truly let it blossom. Traditionally it was ideal to set up a meeting to be able to sit down in person and introduce yourself. While an in-person meeting is not feasible with COVID-19, this does not change this step. Start by finding a way to reach out to the potential mentor, whether via an email, phone call, or even online through various social media resources. Many faculty members have profiles on twitter, Instagram, or one of many other platforms specifically to engage in other orthopedic surgeons and future orthopedic surgeons such as yourself. Once you’ve made contact, try to set up a meeting with this person, whether through a simple phone call or a platform such as zoom. It is still critical to be able to discuss your goals and intentions to give them insight into who you are, and potentially more importantly, ensure that they are a good fit for you. The initial conversations may start out by getting to know each other, which is important for planting the seeds of mentorship. By maintaining these connections, a longitudinal relationship can grow into mentoring. It’s also important to recognize that not every person you initially connect with will turn become a mentor and that’s okay!

3Building on the Foundation

Now that you’ve found your potential mentor(s), you need to start building a relationship. Remember, mentorship is a two-way street. Just as much as you are hoping for them to guide you and mentor you, your mentor will also benefit from you as a mentee. Get involved in research projects, which can easily be done remotely (not just locally but can also be done nationwide). Be sure to attend educational events such as virtual journal clubs, case discussions, and other academic activities being offered on-line so as to demonstrate your true interest and commitment to the field of orthopedic surgery.  These activities can help facilitate the mentorship to grow more definitively.

As is the case in history, sometimes some of the most challenging times have led to the greatest advancements. The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to change the mentorship landscape, by bringing it from a grassroots connection within one’s home program to a nationwide connectivity through social media, webinars, and other platforms that allow students to connect with faculty members across the country. Embrace these changes, think outside the box, and do not hesitate to engage.

DISCLOSURES: Dr. Aiyer American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society: Board or committee member, Delee & Drez Orthopaedic Sports Medicine (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support, Medline: Paid consultant, Medshape: Paid consultant, Miller’s Review of Orthopaedics (Elsevier): Publishing royalties, financial or material support Dr. Kaplan Medline: Paid consultant, Wright Medical Technology, Inc.: Paid consultant Dr. Varacallo This individual reported nothing to disclose.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.

Copyright© 2020 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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