You May Be a Mentor, Without Even Knowing It!

August 5, 2015

"Assisting others is its own reward, beyond measure." Our blogger shares his views on the value of mentoring.

“I’m contacting you to see if you are interested in serving as an advisor for the UC San Diego Extension Post Baccalaureate Premedical Program...Knowing that you enjoy interacting with students, I thought you might be interested in doing this.”

Carolyn Kelly, MD, the Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs at the UCSD School of Medicine, reached out to me last month, and I felt I had come full circle. I remember when I was applying to med school, vowing to myself that if I was accepted, I’d do whatever I could to help others who had the same goal. Now, here was my first opportunity to do so in a formal role.

I’d like to share some disclaimers:

1. I’m not suggesting that I’m an expert on this topic. I’ve just been fascinated by the idea of learning from those who have traveled this road, and are thriving and fulfilled. Few discuss the importance of mentoring.

2. Mentoring can be informal. Some of my most invaluable mentors were those to whom I wasn’t assigned, but rather those who I sought out and regularly contacted.

3. I work at an academic institution, and have been for most of my career, so my experiences mainly involve pre- and current medical students and residents.

3 Reasons I’m Enthusiastic about Mentoring

1. Advice can help others save time.

You can share your hard-won wisdom and pearls for career success, work-life integration, or whatever else. I discuss some of my mistakes and lessons I’ve learned, such as using my hauntingly low first chemistry mid-term score in college as a spur to critically reevaluate my strengths and weaknesses, and to take action to improve.

2. Mentoring isn’t a one-way street. 

Assisting others is its own reward, beyond measure. While I love working with patients, serving as a mentor broadens and enriches other facets of my career, which include research and teaching. Each helps further develop the others.

3. Giving back is giving thanks.

For me, mentoring is the ultimate way to do what others have done for you. With every interaction, whether it’s talking to a resident about career questions, or having a post-bacc student shadow me in clinic, I feel that I’m helping in my own small way, much like Drs. Arnold Scheibel, Scott Lee, James Huang, William Hardt, and Robert Henry did for me.

What about the other side - the mentee - the one who’s seeking a sounding board, inspiration, or encouragement? Even when we’ve completed training, we’re still always students. No matter where we are in the course of our careers, all of us can benefit from the guidance of several mentors. I’ll delve into this in my next post.

Reach out to that colleague, student, or resident. Schedule a time to talk. You may very well find that you have much to offer.