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The word “mentor” comes from Homer's Odyssey, in which Troy—bound Odysseus entrusts his young son to the care of his close friend, Mentor. Mentor, a transitional figure in the youth's growth, acts as the son's guardian and wise advisor, and through their mutual relationship, the son develops his own identity. Ancient history is filled with examples of the importance of mentoring. Tradesmen in the Middle Ages were principally trained by dedicated mentors within their guilds. Chinese kings employed Shang Jang—literally, “the enlightened stepping aside to create room in the center for the next deserving person to step in and take charge”—to pass the crown to a successor.

Mentoring has been vital to the art and practice of medicine since Hippocrates. Good mentors have played key roles in the history of medicine and discovery, in the development of young doctors, and in the institutions that train physicians. Today's health care leaders point to the importance of mentoring in choice of career as well as career advancement and productivity. Yet, the available evidence shows that fewer than 50% of third- and fourth-year medical students and in some fields fewer than 20% of faculty members had a mentor.1 Academic hospitalists in particular, but also hospitalists in the community, not only serve as mentors to trainees but also to other members of the multidisciplinary team. Because Hospital Medicine is a young specialty, peer mentorship is crucial to the success of the specialty (Figure 39-1).

Figure 39-1

Number Of years various specialties have been accredited

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  • Because Hospital Medicine is a young specialty, peer mentorship is crucial to the success of the specialty. Recent surveys at several U.S. and Canadian medical schools highlight that lack of mentoring is a powerful predictor of delays in academic advancement. Faculty members derive personal and professional satisfaction from mentoring residents.

This chapter will summarize the existing literature on the benefits of mentoring in clinical medicine, highlight successful mentoring models and behaviors, and present a potential framework for mentoring clinician-educators and trainees in Hospital Medicine.

Just as Mentor in the Odyssey helped the son recognize a disguised Odysseus returning from Troy, a modern day mentor can recognize previously unseen qualities in the mentee or help open doors to unnoticed opportunities. Surveys of faculty and health care leaders and one recent systematic review identified several potential benefits of mentoring in medicine. Mentoring influences career choice, including medical students' specialty selections; promotes career advancement; increases academic productivity; develops physicians' leadership skills; shapes professional ethics; fosters development of academic departments, institutions, and professional societies; and increases career satisfaction. Clinician-educators who receive mentoring may be more likely to stay in an academic position and view the mentoring relationship as important to academic development and promotion. The strongest evidence in support of mentoring has ...

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