Find the mentors you want in medicine

Medicine has been called an anti-mentorship program: In that trainees tend to find a vast amount of physicians who they don’t want to be like, rather than finding tons of inspiring ones who they do want to emulate.

So how do we navigate this? How do we, as trainees, isolate and latch onto the physicians who are full of energy, life, and potential? Who are excited about what they do? Who have brilliant ways of thinking about things? Here are three things that I think will help you discover who you can keep in your corner.

First: Search for people who seem to be living a life that you could see yourself living, and reach out. Seriously, reach out to them. Write them an email. Call them. Meet them in person. Tell them who you are, what you’re up to, and why you love what they do. Tell them why they inspire you and ask them questions about how they came to be that way. If they get back to you, that’s great — you can continue the conversation and see where it leads. If they don’t get back to you, who cares — you’re in the same spot you were before you sent that email. Keep it movin’.

But it is crucial that you do not acquire tiara syndrome: a mindset where you think if you sit still, be good, and look pretty, then someone will finally come and place a tiara on your sweet little princess head. It’s when you think if you just do the right work in the right way, people will finally notice you. It’s passive. Stop it. Reach out to the person and initiate the conversation, and take control of who you get your information from.

Second: Once you’ve started to identify the type of mentors, sponsors, and leaders who resonate with you, do not compromise on surrounding yourself with those personality traits. Be stingy about advice. Take great precaution about where you get your information from. I’ll give you an example: Since starting my videos and blog, I will receive messages from perfect strangers who start their email with, “Let me give you a word of advice …” You know what? No. I don’t want it. I don’t know that person, and I don’t know if I want their lifestyle, I don’t know if they would inspire me, I don’t know if I would care to emulate what they’re doing. So I disregard it. It is important to filter where your information comes from, especially in medicine. In this world, the majority of professionals are unhappy with their career and would not do it again if they could (I don’t blame them for this, it’s a system-wide problem, but it is true nonetheless). So the majority of the information out there is coming from people who don’t love what they do. You don’t want that information. You want guidance from people whose lives you could realistically see yourself living, who fill you with energy just by speaking with them or by watching them. So be stingy as hell about the messages you listen to.

Third: Use the law of attraction. It’s magnetism. That is, get involved in the sh*t you actually love to do, and the other people who also love that thing will begin to appear out of nowhere. Are you obsessed with studying infectious disease? Do you love orthopedic surgery? Can’t stop thinking about the politics of health care? Then dive in. Make things. Write things. Go to conferences. Start a club. Start a movement. Honor what you truly love, and you’ll see that you meet people in that field who you never knew existed. There is potential for the perfect mentorship relationship there.

Jamie Katuna is a medical student.  She can be reached at her self-titled site, Jamie Katuna, and on Facebook.

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