In 2009, when I was president-designate of the American College of Chest Physicians, a prominent physician, educator and outstanding mentor, who had recently died was honored by her colleagues. One of her junior colleagues, who had never met her but took over her patients, spoke of the profound influence she indirectly had on his life. She was his mentor in absentia, someone he looked up to as his guiding star, someone he sought to emulate.
This example serves to highlight the power of mentorship. Mentorship is inspiring and guiding others to reach their full potential.
The ACCP and other professional medical societies bring together professionals at different stages of their careers, for example medical students to senior and renowned experts in his or her specialty. They have the potential to foster powerful mentorship and leadership programs benefiting members in all career stages.
As ACCP president, the more I interacted with ACCP members, the more I realized that a track for leadership development and mentorship was a pressing need. Medical students wanted to hear of the opportunities that the specialty offered. Fellows and young colleagues wanted to get involved with the organization but did not know where to begin and how to get their “foot in the door.” Members wanted to seek advice from senior colleagues to guide them in their research or for their academic advancement. Some wanted a certificate of participation in leadership courses offered by the organization. Finally, many members, both domestic and international, wanted to know how to climb the leadership ladder within the organization.
The ACCP board of regents enthusiastically supported a leadership and mentorship initiative. A task force was developed to spearhead this effort. The task force comprised the cross-section of ACCP membership who would be involved either as a mentor or a mentee.
Over the past 2 years, the task force has had several accomplishments. Some of those major accomplishments include:
- An annual orientation course for all new leaders of the ACCP.
- A leadership development course for members held throughout the year.
- The creation of the ACCP e-Community, a closed group where members can interact and learn from one another, similar to Doximity.
- A leadership development course for future leaders. We work with program directors to identify and grow these leaders.
- Live mentorship programs incorporated into our annual meeting.
Our organization has come a long way — and, we have a long way to go. We have identified a need to improve and enhance our leadership development, and we feel that enhancing leadership will lead to well-rounded members who will not only excel as physicians but also as leaders both at the ACCP and in their own careers.
How have your own institutions, societies, or organizations worked to expand mentorship and leadership initiatives?
Suhail Raoof is immediate past president, American College of Chest Physicians.