A mentor is defined as someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced, often younger person. We’ve all had mentors throughout the various stages of our lives. I have particularly fond memories of my high school advanced placement Spanish teacher, who not only had a true gift for teaching the Spanish language to teenagers, but also for connecting with and encouraging her students to grow into responsible young adults.
Mentorship in medicine is a popular topic, with more than 4,500 PubMed articles published on the subject over the last five years. With this in mind, the prompt for this year’s annual Resident and Associate Society of the American College of Surgeons (RAS-ACS) Communications Committee essay contest was Paying It Forward: When the Mentee Becomes the Mentor. We received more than 40 submissions detailing residents’ coming of age stories, many of which occurred at different stages in medical training, but all of which highlighted the transformation of the student to a position of teaching, guiding, or advising someone with less experience.
Our winning essay, written by Kevin Koo, MD, MPH, MPhil, will resonate with many readers who have guided trainees through their first skin closure and should remind us all of what it felt like to be given an opportunity to contribute to an operation for the first time while surrounded by our colleagues impatiently watching the ticking clock.
We must remember that no matter how busy or burned out we may be or how inexperienced we may feel, we have so much to offer in the form of teaching, helping, or advising those following in our footsteps. In so doing, we keep the promise of our profession alive.