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Physician Mentorship and Leadership Development Special Interest Group

Aug 1, 2020, 20:44 PM by Ashley Shilling, MD, and Shalini Shah, MD

Mentor: noun

  1. a wise and trusted counselor or teacher
  2. an influential senior sponsor or supporter[1]

To be one or to have one… are both invaluable gifts.

The first mentorship can be found in Greek mythology when Homer's Odysseus left his teenage son in the care of Mentor when he left for the Trojan War.[2] The first recorded modern usage of the term “mentor” is traced to a 1699 book entitled Les Aventures de Télémaque, by the French writer François Fénelon with the lead character Mentor.[3] Since then, the concept of mentorship has become an integral part of many professions, with medicine embracing the concept of mentoring throughout all levels of training and development. Despite this, in some medical subspecialties, fewer than 20% of faculty members were able to identify a professional mentor.[4] Similar findings were demonstrated in anesthesia trainees in the United Kingdom where only 20% could identify a mentor, while 70% noted they would have benefited from a mentor-mentee relationship.[5]

A review of the literature, spanning from 1996-2002 found 162 publications on mentoring programs with 16 meeting methodological criteria. The studies were largely qualitative and although positive satisfaction of mentoring programs was demonstrated, none included any guidance on the effectiveness of the mentoring programs.[6] A more recent systematic review of 42 studies examined the prevalence of mentorship for medical students and physicians and its impact on career development.[4] They determined that mentoring is considered an integral component of academic medicine and can be influential in career choice and guidance, research and grant success, and professional success. The presence of a mentor may not only influence career preference, but also whether a trainee embarks on a career in academic medicine.[7],[8] Mentoring is noted to be impactful in not only career selection but also advancement, productivity, and successful promotion.[4],[9],[10] Other studies have shown performance improvement and increased self-assessed confidence in mentored physicians both clinically and academically.[11],[12]

There is a gender difference in terms of mentorship, as shown in a study from University of California San Francisco where 22% of women junior faculty and 21% of housestaff women had never had a professional mentor, compared to only 9% of men faculty and 16.5% of housestaff men. Notably, 24% of women noted the lack of a mentor as one of the two most negative career experiences.[13]

A qualitative study on mentor-mentee relationships in academic medicine noted that all participants believe good mentorship is vital to career success.[14] Strategies to enhance mentorship include formalizing mentorship initiatives, organized and supported workshops, and constructive feedback by both mentors and mentees. The characteristics of a good mentor should not be overlooked and include seniority, approachability, accessibility, altruism, understanding, patience, and honesty.[14] 

Mission of the Physician Mentorship and Leadership Development SIG

With this information and affirmation of the importance of mentoring, why is it not more formalized in our subspecialty? An ASRA Physician Mentorship and Leadership Development (or PMLD) Special Interest Group (SIG) was created to foster leadership skills in each of us and provide the infrastructure, through mentorship, to guide members in personal and professional growth. 

Our goal is to create lasting partnerships that benefit both the mentors and mentees through structured activities and interactions.

While members of ASRA have many diverse interests including chronic pain, regional anesthesia, pediatric pain management, point-of-care ultrasound, etc, we all share basic fundamental tenants. Rising to our best professional and personal selves, while being championed and supported by others, are universal needs. We need to be strong leaders but also step in line and provide support when others are leading. Further, finding our person or people to support, inspire and guide us throughout our journey is immeasurable. Whether we call that person a teacher, a mentor, a sponsor, or simply a supportive colleague, to have someone invest in us and our personal growth objectively benefits us professionally and personally. 

The mission of the Physician Mentorship and Leadership Development Special Interest Group is to increase the pool of physician leaders interested in regional anesthesia and pain management through leadership training and a strong mentorship commitment that matches faculty from different institutions. Our hope is to foster an environment of mutually beneficial career advancement. 

To accomplish the shared missions of ASRA and the Physician Mentorship and Leadership Development SIG, we propose these specific goals.

  • Provide mentorship opportunities for physicians at all stages of their careers with a special focus on mid-career physicians, as traditional mentorship programs often bridge early career physicians with senior faculty leaving a “mentorship gap” for this group.
  • Cultivate relationships, increase career opportunities, and provide connections that will foster academic development and promotion.
  • Increase the pool of physician leaders with an interest in regional anesthesia and pain management.
  • Increase the pool of physician leaders able to represent ASRA outside of the organization.
  • Cultivate physician leadership skills that will assist ASRA members throughout their careers.

ASRA has a professional and ethical commitment to ensuring all faculty have awareness of and opportunity for the attainment of leadership positions that foster career growth. The SIG will support the Board's commitment to building society member leadership opportunities, ensuring there are positions and representatives from all career levels, and assisting with developing advertisement and solicitations for positions and mentorship for those serving in new roles. The SIG also may make recommendations for the standardization of processes regarding candidate selection and review.

Collaborating with ASRA Connect and the ASRA Membership Committee, we will soon launch the Mentor Match program. This program will pair mentors and mentees across the country based on professional and personal needs. Our goal is to create lasting partnerships that benefit both the mentors and mentees through structured activities and interactions. This mentorship structure is designed to be particularly helpful for faculty at institutions lacking senior faculty available to provide career guidance. In addition, structured mentoring would be intended to produce opportunities for under-represented groups. This structured mentorship program will help foster personal leadership skills and development, while providing opportunities for collaboration, guidance, and, ultimately, promotion and career advancement. The first step in the project is to enlist volunteer mentors. You can become a mentor here.

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” — Benjamin Disraeli

We recognize that mentorship can be acquired through many different frameworks and needs—what may be relevant to a junior physician may not necessarily be applicable to a mid-career faculty’s development. Moreover, those who are eager to launch a research career have a different trajectory and needed skill set compared to those interested in the administrative and operational aspects of healthcare. The SIG aims to enhance the development of the “soft skill set” that, frankly, can be applicable to all ASRA physicians regardless of seniority (ie, presentation skills, designing clinical trials, budgeting, feedback, critical literature review) but also serves to provide a more structured approach to those with specific needs based on one’s level of seniority and goals.

The SIG plans to enrich leadership abilities with podcasts, videos, and tutorials on a variety of topics and by utilizing the incredible pool of talent that is already present within the organization. We also recognize the need to reach across disciplines and leverage ASRA’s relationships outside of the physician community into management science. Focus will be placed on understanding qualities of strong leaders and teaching leadership skills to support personal growth as leaders.

We look forward to forming a strong group of interested ASRA members, seeking out members willing to mentor and those in need of mentorship, and fostering leadership skills in each of us.

"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others." — Jack Welch


  1. Available at: Accessed July 14, 2020.
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