The value of a mentor during medical training

I grew up playing a variety of different organized sports. Looking back now, I notice that no matter what the sport my best performances were always on teams which were led by inspiring coaches. The same could be said about my education, with teachers replacing the coaches. Whether I knew it at the time or not, throughout my life I have had a number of mentors who have brought the best out of me and helped contribute to the success I have achieved today.

There have also been those who may have thought that they were doing me a service through their mentorship, but were in fact more of a benefit in showing me what not to become as I advance in life. In today’s world it seems that many of us have lost the value of what it truly means to be a mentor, and how a strong mentor-protégé relationship can benefit both parties involved.

At the heart of a mentor’s motivation is an innate generosity and self-sacrifice for the betterment of others and society as a whole. True mentors leave their own egos behind, do not begrudge or impede the success of others, and build meaningful relationships based on mutual benefit and not personal gain. Honesty and sincerity are essential in maintaining a healthy relationship with those you mentor. It’s easy to talk about your successes, but often it’s being open about your mistakes and failures that are most valuable.

When it comes to your career there are several ways in which the right mentor may promote and assist in your success. An experienced mentor brings with them a vast network of important and influential contacts in their respective fields.  True mentors will selflessly open these doors to you, connecting you with their network and making their contacts also yours. No matter how much you think you have learned during all those years of education, there are always going to be situations you come across that they didn’t teach you in school or in residency. The ideal mentor will help you take what you’ve learned in the books and apply them to the real world.

The beauty of mentoring is that there are just as many rewards in the relationship for the mentor as there are for the protégé. The way I see it, both individuals are investing a part of their lives into the relationship. The result is a feeling of commitment, value, appreciation, and the development of a loyal future colleague for life.

I always wondered how I would ever repay my mentors, as if there weren’t enough thank yous in the world to show my appreciation for all that they have done. As my dreams grow into reality, I hope that my gratitude will be reflected through the successes of those whom I mentor along the way. Everyone has something to offer; sometimes all that’s needed is an inspiring mentor who sees the potential in someone who cannot see it in themselves. For me, the greatest value in being a mentor is the opportunity to one day learn from my protégés.

Michael A. Zadeh is a general surgeon and can be reached at Zadeh Surgical, Inc.

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