How to be a true mentor in medicine? ‘Figure out what the mentee wants to do’
Dr. Marshall Wolf has legendary status as a mentor for physicians. Dr. Wolf shares wisdom on how to become the best-trained clinician and highlights the value of peers in a training program:
You have mentored thousands of doctors at Harvard Medical School over more than 50 years. What does it mean to be a mentor in medicine today? Well, I think, the mentor’s job is to figure out what the mentee wants to do, and help that person to choose their goals. I think the important thing is, the mentor’s job is not to convince the mentee to do what the mentor did, but rather to help the mentee think about what would give them joy in their professional life and help them achieve that. Over 90% of our viewers are outside of the US, so from the US and international perspective, how to become the best-trained doctor today? I think what makes a training program wonderful is the quality of your fellow trainees. Because they will be with you the rest of your life. So when I trained at the Brigham, there were fourteen interns. Of my 13 colleagues, one is deceased, I had a very distinguished career in this institution and NIH, one runs a huge practice, and all the others are professors of medicine. I think I learned a lot from them, and I think in my training program the thing that makes the training program wonderful is what they learn from their colleagues. The faculty is nice but your colleagues are really especially important. And the trick is to find a program where you feel comfortable, you like the people and those people are talented and accomplished. If someone has graduated from medical school and is at a program internationally, where there is not a lot of very high caliber, very determined physicians in training or in faculty around. Nevertheless, if one is very determined, what could they do to maximize their chances to be the best modern doctor? – Well, it depends on whether you’re talking about being the best practitioner or if they want to have an academic career. If they want to be a great clinician, they need to find some great clinicians and work with them and learn from them. Join a practice where people are really good and stay in that practice for a while, and learn from your colleagues. If you want an academic career, you’re going to have to go to somehow end up in an academic center, and that requires your figuring out how you going to get to such a place. I don’t think you can do that, you know, without help from a center where they have a training program to train people who want to do academics. The other thing is that, I think, if you’re talking about an academic career, then also the faculty becomes a little more important, because you need a mentor on the faculty who will help you develop a set of skills, and then also will help you meet other people in the field and advance your academic career. Is it possible to become a good practitioner of medicine today without being at an academic medical center? Oh, yes, I think you can become a good clinician, if you work with good clinicians. So that if you can find a group of really talented dedicated practitioners, they may have trained at an academic center many years ago, but they practice. You can learn how to practice from them as you work with them and pay attention.