Will You Be My Mentor?—Four Archetypes to Help Mentees Succeed in Academic Medicine

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"The origins of mentoring date back to Odysseus, who entrusted the care of his son to Mentor when he set off to fight the Trojan wars. Mentor became a trusted advisor, teacher, and friend to Telemachus, epitomizing the attributes that we look for even today when discussing a mentor. Many textbooks and articles in multiple disciplines have been written about the art of mentorship. For example, in medical education, advising programs and professional development during clerkships provide mentoring. In a collaboration of mentee and mentor, Straus and Sackett, a pioneer in evidence-based medicine, highlighted the following evidence-based reasons why academic clinicians benefit from mentoring: they publish more papers, get more grants, are promoted faster, and are more likely to stay at their academic institutions with greater career satisfaction and self-reliance. More recently, an effort to distill what the best mentors do has also emerged as a question of particular interest in the fast-paced world of management. As academic physicians, we have sought to develop this body of work, because we believe it is a key ingredient for success in academic medicine. Our mentees often hear us say, “If you want to find a good mentor, find someone who is busy.” Ideal mentors are busy for a reason: they are often highly successful in their field and recognize that mentoring warrants substantial commitment. Collectively, they embody the type of person who a mentee wishes to become. Although mentoring is commonly viewed as a longitudinal relationship between a junior colleague and seasoned faculty, it may not always take this form. For example, we have each helped individuals outside a formal mentor-mentee relationship with one-time needs such as advice on a paper or a job. Similarly, we are regularly approached by individuals asking us to be their mentor when what they really need is one-time strategic advice or guidance for promotion or a specific project. These situations represent alternative mentorship models that are important given the paucity of experienced mentors. Although we have often served in these roles, little has been written about these unique archetypes, how mentees may incorporate them, or how they might be structured to their benefit. We define 4 archetypes of mentorship, highlighting how mentees can maximize the yield of each. 


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Vineet Chopra, Vineet M. Arora, Sanjay Saint. Will You Be My Mentor?—Four Archetypes to Help Mentees Succeed in Academic Medicine. JAMA Intern Med. Published online November 27, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.6537


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