Maintaining Mentor Relationships From a Distance

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As part of a busy cardiology training program, it may feel like the people who provide mentorship are always around. However, it is important to remember that this will not always be the case.

Regardless of the time trainees spend in a particular setting, the people you encounter either as part of your training program, during off-site rotations, at conferences or otherwise, are highly valuable for the remainder of your career.

Be it as a sounding board for challenging future clinical scenarios, a professional advisor or a trusted life coach, these contacts remain important.

Furthermore, mentor-mentee relationships do not require a formalized process and can be fostered out of a seemingly informal encounter. There are many ways that trainees maintain these relationships and below are helpful strategies to consider.

As obvious as it sounds, you should demonstrate a positive attitude and build strong relationships while working with your mentors as a trainee. Each encounter you have as a trainee can be an opportunity to build a mentoring relationship.

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Individuals who are successful teachers and faculty members at academic hospitals expect to answer questions from trainees after they graduate, but demonstrating hard work, clinical competence and responsibility while you are in training builds an important foundation for a long-term relationship.

Faculty members will be more likely to remain friendly and provide future help to a former trainee who has been easy to work with and demonstrate diligence and commitment to patient care.

Before you graduate, establish a specific reason to maintain ongoing contact with your mentor. For example, ongoing research collaboration or clinical expertise in a particular area can be important sources of mentorship for a new attending.

If your mentor has expertise in a particular area, it can be a helpful resource for you and a reason to maintain contact in the future. Even if your mentor does not have unique expertise, just reaching out for their opinion on a challenging case can bring you an important perspective.

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Seeking mentors with diverse clinical backgrounds is helpful. Maintaining contact with colleagues may facilitate a return to a hospital where you have previously worked.

After you leave, periodically reach out to faculty from your prior institution. The best mentors would like to hear from you on updates such as when a life event occurs, you accept a new position or if you care for a patient with an interesting case.

All keep the lines of communication open. Group text chats among former fellows and faculty regarding cases can often spark insightful debate and be a great way to maintain contact. Organized meetings of prior graduates of your program, such as conferences, can be a friendly way to maintain contact with mentors on a consistent basis.

It is always good practice to maintain working relationships, but building on and maintaining relationships forged while in training is important too.

As a cardiologist, mentor-mentee relationships will be critical to your successful transition out of training into independent practice. Building and maintaining these relationships requires effort and you should think about the best approaches you will use to facilitate this as it will help you in your career.

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This article was authored by Charles Miller, MD, electrophysiology Fellow in Training (FIT) at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA.