MIT Column: Mentors: A Valued Resource

Published Friday, August 31, 2012
by Laurie Boore, MD, MIT Representative to AAGP Board of Directors
Laurie Boore, MD

Mentors are an integral part of our psychiatric training, and show us paths we have left undiscovered. While we trainees bear the main responsibility of developing our career, navigating our career path, and acquiring knowledge, mentors are there to ease the burden and guide us. Their insight and connections are valuable especially in situations where there is incredible flexibility, like transitions and career design. They have walked the path before and are eager to share their experiences. In return, they grow with us and learn from us as we bring fresh insight and new techniques to the table. This relationship is cultivated by time, exchange of ideas, and open communication.

Oftentimes in training, we have dual roles as we mentor junior residents and medical students while receiving the benefits of a more learned advisor ourselves. This duality rarely extinguishes itself as we advance in our careers. Serving as a mentor has indeed taught me how to develop my own style and to use the techniques I found valuable as a mentee. Good mentors are available, open, receptive of your ideas, willing to provide constructive feedback, and of course, knowledgeable in their area of study. 

In medical school, my clerkship attending opened my eyes to the existence of geriatric psychiatry, and still serves as a mentor today.

“I remember thinking that my mentor must not get any sleep; in the middle of all her research and clinical duties, she always made time for me,” said AAGP member-in-training Beverly Chang, MD, of California. “She even created a summer research position in elder abuse research after my first year of med school because she wanted to foster my interest in geriatrics,” Cho explained. “She will always hold a special place in my heart, as an excellent physician, role model, and friend.”

The relationship between a mentee and a mentor is like any other relationship in that there may be disagreements, divergence of paths, or, simply, disruptions due to geographic relocations. Social media and e-mail have lessened that, and in fact, have made it easier for parties to stay in touch.

For more on mentoring, see AAGP President Paul Kirwin’s June 2012 President’s Column: Some Thoughts on Mentorship.

Finding a mentor is not as daunting as it may seem, and often there is no official process. In the course of training, some mentors are assigned while others just seem to happen. In medical school, psychiatry interest groups and clerkship directors help connect interested parties on both ends. Once in residency and fellowship, program directors are able to assist with this development, and they themselves often become our mentors. AAGP has the “Find a Mentor” program for trainees at all levels [link], with the Scholars Program as another avenue. The Member-in-Training director on the AAGP Board also becomes very well connected and can network for interested individuals, too. Some relationships form seamlessly on services at all levels of training, and it is never too early or too late to develop one. A solid mentorship experience has a major, positive impact on both our professional lives and our personal lives. Over time, the relationships grow stronger, and may be among some of our most memorable.

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It’s not too early to think about the next Annual Meeting in Los Angeles in March 2013. More information can be found at www.AAGPmeeting.org, and poster submissions are now being accepted.

The trainees are hard at work on redesigning the trainee portion of AAGP’s website. Our goal is to make it a resource for you and other interested trainees. We’re still in need of volunteers to help develop some of the web content on educational topics. If you would be interested in helping or would like more information on any of the projects, please contact me at lboore@med.umich.edu or Sophia Wang, MD, at Sophia.wang@ucsf.edu (please note Sophia’s e-mail address has changed since previous publications).

This is my last article for Geriatric Psychiatry News. It has been an enlightening and exciting year, and your energy, commitment, and ideas have been a very important part of it! Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your trainee representative!

Laurie Boore, MD, is the Member-in-Training Director on the AAGP Board of Directors, serving as a liaison between the Board and the MIT membership. She is on staff at the Ann Arbor VA and is affiliated with the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry.

Back to July/August/September 2012 Geriatric Psychiatry News