What You Need To Know About Finding A Mentor In Medical School
“For medical students, having a physician who serves as a mentor may be one of the most valuable resources on the path to becoming a doctor. Mentoring relationships are particularly important for minority students or students who are in medical schools that do not have a department of family medicine.” AAFP
The road to becoming a medical professional is a long one, and the path involves interacting with numerous types of people. Professors, patients, and admissions committees may come to mind, but one of the most important relationships you can build is with a mentor: an expert in their field who shares their personal experiences and knowledge, in order to better position you for your own medical career.
The motivation and information that a mentor provides is invaluable, and being mentored is an opportunity that every student should take advantage of. You may be unsure where to start, but here are some of the most important things to remember when deciding to become a mentee:
Why You Need a Mentor
Understanding the importance of why you need a mentor will not only show you the benefits of their guidance, but also assist you in knowing what to look for in a potential mentor. A mentor is not simply a physician that you shadow and observe. Sure, that can be a part of your mentor’s role, but overall a mentor is a teacher that you develop a long-term relationship with. He or she will help you develop your skill set, increase your overall knowledge, and build your confidence as a medical professional. Your relationship with your mentor is absolutely crucial in building your career in medicine.
What to Look For in a Good Mentor
Not all mentors were created equal. Yes, it is beneficial to learn from those that walked the same path, but what you really need is an individual that cares about your future success as much as you do. The basics of a good mentor include:
- Being able to dedicate time from their hectic schedule toward mentoring.
- Following through on the expectations that were laid out at your initial discussion.
- Offering new opportunities with network connections (i.e. shadowing with a doctor in the specialty you are interested in, getting you involved with a new research project) when appropriate.
The other qualities that you should look for are actually up to you. You know what types of personalities you work best with, so you may want to ask yourself ‘Do I need a mentor that will push me when I start to stray?’ or ‘Do I need a mentor that is more extroverted to help me with my communication skills?’.
Where To Find a Mentor
So, where do you find this influential person that will help shape the foundation of your medical career?
Potential mentors are closer than you think, but professors are a good starting point for most students seeking mentorship. Browse through a campus directory, or speak with upper-class medical students to learn which professors might be the best to contact. Guest professors will often mention upcoming projects, and this may serve as an opportunity to assist with their research. If you have experience volunteering at a hospital or clinic, check to see if there are any mentoring programs. Depending on what you are looking to gain from your mentorship, pre-med peer mentors like those from local AMSA chapters can be helpful.
Always remember that it never hurts to ask, whether it is through the alumni association, local medical society chapters, or a doctor you find through researching internships.