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Making the most of mentorship opportunities

Doug Jones, PhD

Mentorship may mean different things to different people. It’s most often confused with supervision, coaching or preceptorship. After all, don’t supervisors and coaches “mentor” their trainees? Well, yes and no.

A mentor can be thought of as someone of advanced rank or experience who guides, teaches and develops an individual with less experience, or who provides a scaffold for sharing expertise in the service of lifelong learning that could otherwise only be attained from direct experience. They provide a broader, less specific perspective to assist with the mentee’s academic and career development, help guide the mentee through organizational, political and social networks, and often foster leadership development by moving beyond processes and skills to values and culture.

This role is different than one of a supervisor or coach. A coach is someone who is directly concerned with immediate improvement of performance, development of skills, and attainment of performance objectives. A supervisor is similarly interested in the performance and productivity of the trainee, often providing an evaluation used for assessment purposes. There is a component of personal benefit to the coach or supervisor when their trainees are successful.

Schulich Medicine & Dentistry is interested in mentorship specifically, as there is increasing evidence that clearly shows the benefits to the individual being mentored, the mentor themselves, and, thus, the overall well-being of an organization.

Literature shows that mentored individuals are more productive and happier in their work environments, and in a mentoring environment there is a sense of shared responsibility and social wellbeing. All of these are goals shared by the School’s leadership teams.

That being said, a “one size fits all” approach to mentorship does not work. Mentorship comes in many flavours — it can be one-to-one, in peer groups or with a senior colleague. Group mentoring can also be useful as collective wisdom and different perspectives can be shared.

Schulich Medicine & Dentistry has developed a number of things to foster mentorship. The School has a mentorship policy that states that a formal mentorship program must be offered to every new faculty member, and is suggested for anyone who has a major change in role. The School also recommends that trainees and postdoctoral fellows connect with potential mentors to help guide them through their academic pursuits.

Below are some additional resources related to mentorship:

- Faculty Mentorship
- Courses and resources through Continuing Professional Development

Be aware of the potential benefits of mentorship, and be someone who contributes to the enhancement of the working environment at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.

Respectfully,

Doug L. Jones, PhD
Vice Dean, Basic Medical Sciences