The importance of having mentors in medicine

As a freshman in college, I helped my aunt with her obstetric appointments to try and see what it meant to be an obstetrician. After her delivery, I asked her OB about her college majors, and she told me she majored in history. The next week, I signed up to start my history minor.

Was that mentorship? No. Granted, having a liberal arts background has been extremely helpful in my medical career. But mentorship is about getting to know someone and learning how he or she finds passion in his or her medical career. To become a fulfilled physician, we have to think of medicine not as a job, but as a life-long career. It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint.

As young learners, we are drawn intrinsically to passionate people; whether their energy is shown through lectures, clinical work or even in simple conversations. Finding a mentor isn’t as easy as just being paired together, though it can be. It takes a real commitment to one another to have a meaningful relationship with a mentor. For most people, mentors are found, not necessarily assigned to them.

I’ve been lucky enough to have some wonderful mentors along my medical school and residency path. As a senior medical student, I remember talking to Dr. Swadron about all the programs I interviewed at and discussing what really made them fulfilling for me. Some of my mentors have been big names in emergency medicine, like Dr. Mallon, whose passion for education is known nationwide on the emergency medicine stage.

But even more of my mentors are people who are not national leaders, but have influenced me on any typical shift as we work side-by-side trying to help patients. In these conversations, sometimes even at 3:00 a.m. on a night shift, I have been able to connect with individuals that have led me to genuinely identify the type of doctor I want to become and supported me wholeheartedly along the way.

Then, in what felt like a blink of an eye, I’ve found myself on the other side of that relationship. As a senior resident, I now work with junior residents, medical students and sometimes undergraduates who are asking me the same questions I once asked those I used to look up to. At first, I was a little hesitant to give advice when I felt like my own experience is so limited, but now I have found satisfaction in sharing my own successes and mistakes to help others along their own careers.

Following those individuals who have influenced us, we too should take it upon ourselves to make mentorship a priority and support the next generation of young learners. And through this we can preserve a line of physicians whose passion not only drives the field of medicine, but also shines through in their day-to-day interactions with patients.

Marissa Camilon is an emergency medicine resident. This article originally appeared in the American Resident Project.

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