What is the Value of Mentorship?

Claire McDaniel, MD | Liana Tedesco, MD

May 17, 2023

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Mentorship – always a hot button topic in orthopedic surgery. For medical students, residents, and young attendings, the promise of mentorship is critical in the decision-making process for residency, fellowship, and first jobs. A few months ago, Drs. Gregory and Brandt authored a post about the value of mentorship from an attending perspective and we are here to give you our resident-perspective, based on personal experience over the last few years. 

For medical students interested in orthopedics, looking for a mentor can be challenging  – especially in the pre-clinical years. Look for opportunities such as journal clubs and grand rounds to interact with residents and faculty. If your school has an Orthopedics Interest Group, this can be a great venue for meeting the members of your institution’s orthopedics department, developing professional relationships, and even getting involved in research.

This is your opportunity to determine if Orthopedics is right for your future, so find mentors who will help you to figure out what this profession entails. You will experience a wide variety of medical specialties during your clinical years, and early mentorship and exposure to orthopedics can help you decide if the specialty is right for you and your career goals. 

Once you have decided to pursue orthopedics, the mentorship network you’ve developed in medical school can serve as your strongest advocates for the residency match. Their experience and their own professional network can be used to help steer you towards programs in which you’d excel and make connections that can be crucial to the residency match process. 

In residency, there are many different types of mentors. You may find that, over time, you accumulate a family of mentors composed of co-residents, fellows, and faculty. These relationships may be formal, but most will develop more organically. These mentor/mentee relationships will grow as you determine your own interests. As you begin to focus on fellowship applications and the match process, you will likely lean heavily on your subspeciality faculty and near peer resident mentors. They are the key to your fellowship search, helping to determine which program is the best fit for your desired career. This is a critical time for clear and consistent communications. Finding a good mentor is as much about being a good mentee in return. Also critical in this process is open, consistent, and HONEST communication with your spouse to avoid unhappiness no matter how good the position may be.

The mentorship network you create in residency is, of course, just the beginning. This is where you make connections that will last a lifetime and help you build your career. These are, practically speaking, helpful as you search for a job or joining national society committees. The unofficial mentorship amongst junior and senior residents is the beginnings of a professional network. These connections, if fostered appropriately, can bring new opportunities for professional growth. 

More nebulous though, are the friendships built through these mentor-mentee relationships. A good mentee is one who is open and communicative. Keep this in mind as you transition from resident to fellow or fellow to attendings. Your mentors, be it formal or informal, want to know how you are doing and, for most, how they can help. 

Mentorship is truly a lifelong journey. A cyclical experience, mentees eventually become mentors and these relationships become friendships. From our own mentors, we learn how to emphasize our strengths and grow from our weaknesses. These experiences will eventually allow us to develop into mentors from those earlier in the career path. As our careers evolve, mentorship is a surefire way to pay it forward and inspire younger generations to find meaning in the important work that we do. 

DISCLOSURES: Dr. McDaniel a close family member who works for Ferring Pharmaceuticals (makes Euflexxa). Dr. Tedesco This individual reported nothing to disclose.

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

Copyright© 2023 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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