Article review: Mentoring for clinician-educators

What is so important about mentorship in Medicine anyway?

Mentorship plays a critical role in the development of medical students, residents, and faculty. For instance, research-based faculty who are mentored have greater academic productivity (i.e. getting grants and writing publications). Also, junior faculty with mentors demonstrate greater career satisfaction. In a nutshell, mentors shed greater light towards where you are going and help you avoid common pitfalls along the way.

However, what about those of us who are more clinician-educators? Early evidence shows that clinician-educators receive less mentorship than the traditional clinician-researcher. Also, what if you are a budding clinician-educator and are looking for a mentor? How do you go about that process?

This review article, written by 4 Emergency Medicine academic faculty, addresses these questions and provides pearls towards a successful career in medical education.

Mentorship should be tailored towards the mentee's career development stage, as defined by Wilkerson and Irby (Acad Med 1998).
  1. Entry-level educators learning basic teaching skills and how they fit into academics
  2. Educators with more conceptual knowledge of learning theories
  3. Leaders who direct educational programs (residency program, clerkship, medical school courses)
  4. Teacher-scholars who look at education on the big-picture level on curricular change and educational outcomes
Where are you on this scale? I feel like I flux across all 4 stages. On a good day - 4. On a bad day - 1.

This article also provides key tips for aspiring clinician-educators when seeking out mentorship relationships in the academic EM world. These are based on guidelines from the family medicine literature (Rogers et al, Fam Med, 1990).
  1. As a potential mentee, be self-reflective and critically appraise your short-term and long-term career goals. Know your department expects out of you, as a clinician-educator. Get familiar with your institution's academic promotion requirements.
  2. Identify your academic niche. Determine what skills you need to work on to build this niche. Examples include: educational research, bedside teaching skills, curricular development, time management, and grant writing. You can find out what skills to target based on the success and failures of your prior educational projects.
  3. Identify ideal mentors. Characteristics of good mentors are: self-confident, patient, inspirational, supportive, approachable, competent, tolerant of learners, and respected as educators in the academic world of EM. A mentor will need to be able to assist you in networking. You will often need to work with others outside of your institution.
  4. Once you have found a mentor, remember that it's a two-way street. Don't just sit back and expect wisdom just to flow your way. Think about how the mentor can help you. Ask concrete, practical, and specific questions.
Below is a checklist of things to think about as a potential mentee (from Table 1 of the review article - may need to click to see enlarged version):

Now go find a mentor, or be a mentor. This blog is my little way to contribute a little virtual mentorship for all those, who are interested in the academic world of Emergency Medicine.

Farrell SE, Digioia DM, Broderick KB, Coates WC. Mentoring for clinician-educators. Acad Emerg Med. 2004; 11:1346-50.
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