Finding Your Mentor

We cannot succeed alone

Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” We cannot succeed on our own, especially in a profession as challenging as medicine. Having great mentors is critical to the success of young physicians.

Mentors provide a long-lasting personal relationship characterized by both emotional and psychological support, as well as career and professional development. Successful mentorship during the early stages of a career is associated with higher levels of personal and career satisfaction.

Without the appropriate support, medicine can be an isolating profession. As the first physician in my family, I know I would not have achieved my dreams of becoming a doctor, were it not for the support of my mentors at every step of the way. I was lucky I met mentors whose personalities and professional goals clicked with mine. However, a lot of my colleagues struggle to find a friend in a mentor.

How to find your suitable mentor

A novel algorithm has been created by the non-profit group, Women in Cancer (WinC), which matches a mentor to a mentee based on shared interests, similar to online dating profiles. WinC is a community of oncologists and oncologists-in-training dedicated to encouraging leadership and mentorship as invaluable qualities to career advancement. There is no fee for this service.

Left to Right: WinC founder Dr. Christine Simmons, former ASCO president Dr. Sandra Swain, WinC Co-Chair Dr. Caroline Chung

It is well known that effective mentoring requires a certain chemistry. A survey conducted among internal medicine residents at Harvard Medical School showed 93% of residents believed it was important to have a mentor during residency, and particularly valued mentors who maintained close contact and provided useful career advice. Nearly half of these residents did not have mentors.

Overcoming barriers

Unfortunately, there can be several barriers when it comes to seeking a mentor, such as, the fear of approaching a faculty member, inability to find a faculty member who residents can ‘click with,’ and never having thought about approaching a faculty member. Gender and ethnicity barriers also exist. Female residents and underrepresented minorities report less adequate career preparation and effective mentorship.

As a woman, I can vouch that mentorship is especially important for us. Having women in leadership roles as role models encourages us to pursue such roles. However, women continue to remain underrepresented in prominent leadership positions in medicine.

We are encouraged to strive to achieve both professional and personal goals, which are often at odds with each other. From being able to conceive to child-rearing to maternity leave, there are unique challenges faced by women. Despite the growing acceptance of shared domestic responsibility between spouses, a nationwide survey showed that married female physicians with children spend 8.5 hours more per week on parenting and household duties. In addition, 85.6% of women’s spouses work full-time versus only 44.9% of men’s spouses, furthering these disparities.

Act Now

Female leadership and promotion is highly correlated with mentorship. To address these barriers, WinC is an excellent resource for finding a mentor who matches your personality interests. For those who require chemistry in a mentorship, this is a great place to start.

For more information, please visit: www.womenincancer.org

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