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Mentor or Mentee: What It Takes to Be Great


15 tips for being an ideal mentor or mentee.

No accomplished radiologist reaches the peak of performance without guidance from others who have more experience and wisdom. That’s why the mentor-mentee relationship is so critical – but merely asking for or agreeing to be a mentor isn’t enough. Both parties must be invested for the partnership to be fruitful.

In a session during the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting, both Eliot Siegel, M.D., professor of diagnostic imaging and nuclear medicine, as well as vice chair of information systems at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and Omer Awan, M.D., assistant professor of radiology at Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine, discussed what it takes to be a successful mentor and a great mentee.

For more SIIM 2021 coverage, click here.

They offered 15 tips that can help set these partnership off on the right foot.

Maximize the Mentor Role

“The most satisfying thing in my career has been serving as mentor to more than 100 mentees from the high school level to the attending physician level,” Siegel said.

Along the way, he said, he has picked up 10 tips that are a critical part of being an effective mentor.

  1. Set expectations: Have a conversation early about what the mentee is seeking from the relationship. Get both a general and specific idea of his or her goal.
  2. Have empathy: While it can sometimes be difficult, step back and view a question or situation from the mentee’s shoes. Think about things from their perspective or with their insights.
  3. Keep a positive outlook: Focus on keeping conversations positive and engaging. If both mentor and mentee enjoy the conversation, then the advice and guidance are likely to be more impactful.
  4. Promote creative thinking: Challenge mentees to think outside-the-box and to identify opportunities they might not have thought of before. For example, Siegel said, he frequently asks mentees to envision themselves five years in the future and to think about what piece or pieces of advice their future self might wish to give to their present self.
  5. Celebrate successes: Too often, physicians fervently pursue their next challenge without taking the opportunity to relish their accomplishments. Take the time with mentees to celebrate the small and large wins.
  6. Encourage finding a niche: Most mentors have identified their niche be it private practice or academia. For many mentees, it’s too early to decide on a niche for their career, but encourage them to think about the many options that are available. It’s never too early to begin contemplating it.
  7. Give more: Don’t limit what you offer a mentee to fulfilling their specific request. Always be prepared to contribute more to the relationship – those efforts can lead to expanded, future partnerships and collaborations.
  8. Learn from mentees: While mentees are actively searching for guidance and advice, be open to learning from them, as well. Throughout his career, Siegel said, he has learned far more from his mentees in aggregate than they ever learned from him individually.
  9. Advocate: Be prepared to recommend, promote, encourage, and become a champion for a mentee, and be sure to mentor by example.
  10. Mentor for a lifetime: It doesn’t matter whether a mentee has asked for a week-long, month-long, or year-long mentorship. Invest your time and energies as if you will serve as a mentor ad infinitum.

Be the Great Mentee

Having an outstanding mentor is only part of the recipe for a successful mentor relationship. Mentees carry responsibilities, as well, Awan said. He offered these five tips to help mentees maximize their role.

  1. Take the driver’s seat: Take the initiative to start conversations and drive discussion – don’t wait for a mentor to reach out. Be proactive in asking questions and sharing ideas.
  2. Cultivate a positive attitude: Believe in yourself, but understand that experiencing failure at some point is inevitable. Embrace it, and use it as a learning experience for the future while maintaining confidence in your capabilities.
  3. Keep Learning: Always be willing to learn something new. Seek out advice from multiple mentors for research, education, or practice. Having a plethora of mentors can only be helpful, Awan, so the more the merrier.
  4. Communicate effectively: Now is not the time to be shy, he said, and do not be afraid of being judged. Express your concerns and discuss any problems openly and honestly. Approach all discussion with open eyes, ears, and heart to maximize what a mentor has to offer. And, remember, all communication is a two-way street.
  5. Show gratitude: Express thanks for the time and effort a mentor volunteers. They are freely giving of their time and expertise, so take the time to show appreciation.

For more coverage based on industry expert insights and research, subscribe to the Diagnostic Imaging e-newsletter here.

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