From the Editor’s Desk: Mentorship Matters

February 2019 Issue

  1. Kristopher M. Schroeder, M.D. Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health Author


Again, I am amazed by the commitment and expertise of the ASRA members who have contributed material to this edition of the ASRA News. In particular, the attention to issues related to mentorship and the perspectives of both faculty and resident learners really prompted me to consider the mentoring experiences that I have encountered throughout my training and subsequent career.


From the top to the bottom, we always have something to be learned, something that can be taught, and some person out there who we can help or who can help us.


I have been fortunate to have been mentored by a variety of individuals, and I can certainly attest to the benefits of mentorship from individuals with different perspectives for various aspects of my clinical and academic career. Many of my mentors’ careers have focused on regional anesthesia and pain management. However, I have also experienced mentorship from nonphysicians; basic science researchers; cardiac, critical care, and generalist anesthesiologists; and physicians specializing in airway management. My mentors have demonstrated how to achieve success with clinical medicine, academics, and work-life balance as I have moved through different phases of life. For me, mentors and my need for mentorship in any particular discipline have changed over time, and those changes have predictably been related to events in the workplace or on the home front. My mentors have graciously sacrificed their time, shared their experience, and been largely responsible for any of the successes that I have been fortunate enough to achieve.

 As a faculty anesthesiologist, I have worked to pass on all of the tremendous mentoring and assistance that has been given to me. A common theme on normal workdays and while attending conferences is a desire to "take care of the littles." This definition of "littles" and what I can do to help has expanded over time. At one point, it meant trying to steer medical students toward a good lecture, help them with an abstract, or maybe just buy them lunch and discuss career options. This has now evolved into working with my fellows and junior faculty and hoping that they are now the ones mentoring the medical students. What I have attempted to create is an institutional legacy whereby subsequent generations of faculty can accomplish far greater things than myself by not being forced to be the first one to navigate everything for the first time. Hopefully, these junior faculty and fellows can benefit from some of the experiences (both successes and colossal failures) that I have had over time. My mentor-mentee relationships have been incredibly rewarding, and I cherish the network of former medical students, residents, and fellows whose careers I now get to follow.

 All of us in ASRA need to continuously seek out opportunities to become the best mentees and mentors that we can be. From the top to the bottom, we always have something to be learned, something that can be taught, and some person out there who we can help or who can help us. I encourage you to work to foster the mentorship process within your institution. Attempt to re-energize experienced faculty who may have disengaged for any number of reasons. Recognize and thank mentors who have helped you along the way. Help these leaders see that their mentorship has real and lasting value, and inspire them to take on new mentees. Encourage your current or former mentees to develop relationships with new mentors or take on mentees of their own. Seek out mentors, and don't be bashful about reaching out to faculty outside of your institution. Finally, examine your own mentoring relationships, seek input from your mentees regarding what they need from the relationship, and think about what you can do to motivate and assist your mentees. Most of all: have fun. These should be mutually beneficial relationships that can inspire creativity and link generations.