We want to believe that genius and skill are natural, but the truth is that they are dependent on discipline and training far more than on raw talent alone. Any of us who admire an elegant surgeon or an astute clinician or a sensitive counselor will instinctively agree that they engaged in the thoughtful preparation and intentional investment of time, yet we expect teaching and mentoring to happen effortlessly. We imagine that information, experience, and character will collectively and spontaneously flow from a mentor to a mentee, diffusing magically across a gradient if only given enough time and proximity together. This may explain why we elevate the most knowledgeable and skillful people to places of leadership and mentorship, hoping that inspiration will automatically lead to successful modeling. This may also explain why we are often disappointed when mentorship fails and find ourselves searching again and again for its success.
In 2006, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a systematic review of mentoring in academic medicine.[i] Published studies on the topic were small and essentially anecdotal in nature, leading the authors to simply conclude that people wanted mentors and felt that mentorship was critically important to personal development, career advancement, and productivity, but that they did not actually have mentors and often did not know how to find them or even keep them. There was some indication that mentorship was most successful when mentees had “good internal control, high self-monitoring skills, and emotional stability,” though one could argue that even the worst of teachers would look good with students like that!
In this issue of Health & Development, we explore what it means to be Christian mentors and mentees in the modern healthcare environment. Scott Stringfield, faculty physician at Via Christi Family Medicine in Kansas makes a plain and heartfelt appeal that other men, who still constitute the predominate gender in many leadership-associated ministries and healthcare fields, embrace the humility and “grit” necessary to persevere as a mentors and mentees. Michael McLaughlin, a Portland area pastor and the Western Regional Director of CMDA, works out the surprisingly ambiguous concepts behind the idea of “mentorship,” breaking it down into the more distinct and technically useful entities of coaching, mentorship, and discipleship. In very personal pieces, professional life coach Deborah Smith describes her journey through these three components in shaping a unique perspective on the discipleship of medical students, while inner city Los Angeles physician Katy White literally walks us through intimate, daily experiences in becoming both a discipler and a mentor.
We hope you enjoy and are enriched by these thoughtful reflections as you mentor and receive mentorship from others in our journey towards Jesus Christ.
[i] Sambunjak, D., S. E. Straus, et al. (2006). "Mentoring in academic medicine: a systematic review." JAMA 296(9): 1103-1115.
Dave Chen, MD. I’m a resident (physician-in-training) that often bridges very different worlds. Vocationally, my foci are in internal medicine and pediatrics. Geographically, I grew up in the suburbs but now live in the inner city. Ethnically, I’m Asian and American. Socially, I’m an introvert that enjoys public speaking (mainly as a platform for ideals). Politically, I lean center-left but with largely fundamentalist Christian morality. Academically, I’ve studied engineering, medicine, and health policy. Faith-wise, I am decidedly Christian.
Where are the mentors? We want to believe that genius and skill are natural, but the truth is that they are dependent on discipline and training far more than on raw talent alone. Any of us who admire an elegant surgeon or an astute clinician or a sensitive counselor will instinctively agree that they engaged in the thoughtful preparation and intentional investment of time, yet we expect teaching and mentoring to happen effortlessly.