Mentoring

Blog Post by Gus M. Garmel, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

Co-Program Director, Stanford/Kaiser EM Residency; Medical Student Clerkship Director, Surg 313D (EM), Stanford University; Clinical Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine (Surgery), Stanford University; Senior Emergency Physician, TPMG, Kaiser Santa Clara, CA; Senior Editor, The Permanente Journal

Mentoring is an opportunity for experienced individuals to give back to those in a position to be mentored.  It is perhaps the greatest gift one individual can offer another.  The benefits of quality mentoring are lifelong, including many benefits to the mentor.  Mentoring is vital to the professional growth of individuals early in their careers. Research suggests that academic physicians with mentors publish more articles in peer-reviewed journals and have more confidence in their abilities than their peers. Individuals describing positive mentoring relationships, as well as those with any mentoring, report greater perceived success. Therefore, many professional societies have formal mentoring programs, especially in EM for students and residents.

The word mentor derives its roots from Homer’s Odyssey.  Odysseus leaves his son (Telemachus) in the care of a trusted friend (Mentor) while fighting in the Trojan War.  Mentor served as Telemachus’ loyal guardian and wise advisor, and later leads Telemachus to find his father when he does not return.  Under Mentor’s guidance, Telemachus matures and develops his own identity.  In Greek, mentoring has become synonymous with the term “enduring.”

Definitions of a mentor include an “artist of enlightenment” and a trusted and experienced “advisor who has a direct interest in the development and education of another individual.”  Mentoring is an intentional interaction(s) between two individuals that includes nurturing to promote growth and development.  It is an insightful process in which the mentor’s wisdom is acquired and modified as needed, as well as a process that is supportive and often protective.  This relationship is fluid and may change over time. It can be structured or loose.  A successful mentor-mentee relationship requires active participation of both parties.  Its duration can be relatively short or an ongoing one.  There can be breaks in the relationship, with its future reestablishment.  Both individuals should be enriched by this relationship.

Dr. Garmel has published three textbooks on Emergency Medicine, and has written numerous textbook chapters and scholarly academic articles in specialty journals. His textbook with Dr. S.V. Mahadevan, An Introduction to Clinical Emergency Medicine (Cambridge University Press, 2005), received the textbook of the year award, 2006, from the American Medical Writers’ Association (AMWA). He is also co-author of the Clinical Emergency Medicine Casebook, published by Cambridge University Press in June 2009.

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