As we decided at a departmental meeting in the Spring of 1998, we have initiated a mentoring program for residents in our department. "Mentoring" carries a variety of connotations for different individuals. In this instance, we will borrow from a definition used by the medical educator, Neal Whitman (Levison, 1978): He(she) may act as a teacher to enhance the young person’s skills and intellectual development. Serving as sponsor, he may use his influence to facilitate the other’s entry and advancement. He may be a host and guide, welcoming the initiate into a new occupational and social world and acquainting him with its values, customs, resources, and cast of characters. He may provide moral support and counsel in time of stress. The mentor has another critical function…to support and facilitate the realization of the Dream.
We wish to create a program in which there is a one on one relationship between residents coming into our program and faculty members. The faculty member would meet regularly with the resident to discuss:
- short term and long term goals,
- devise a relatively detailed plan about how to achieve these goals (which would be shared with the program director),
- periodically assess progress.
The value of the mentoring relationship would exist in the knowledge that a faculty member will be present for the duration of training, interested in helping the resident learn about the practice of pathology, willing to help clarify the goals of the resident, and able to serve as a facilitator in obtaining information or solving problems. Referral to another faculty member for research, elective rotations, or specific advice about obtaining a fellowship would be the norm. If the faculty member has specific knowledge about the specific interests of the resident, so much the better.
Nevertheless, the mentor relationship:
- does not imply a shared subspecialty interest,
- is not (necessarily) a friend,
- does not imply a social responsibility.
Mentoring pairs are assigned by the residency program director for each new resident, using faculty who volunteer for the program. Effectiveness of the program is evaluated at the time of the meeting of the program director and individual residents for setting annual goals.