Our Mentoring Relationship

By Irmanie Eliacin, MD, and Suzanne Minor, MD

On being the mentee

It all started 2.5 years ago. I was a brand new faculty coming out of a busy practice and entering the realm of academic medicine; when the opportunity afforded itself I ran with it. The transition from residency to a traditional outpatient clinic to academia was daunting. At the first curriculum committee meeting I attended, I saw from afar a smiling, warm face and heard her voice loud and resounding after they introduced me as a new faculty, saying “Welcome!” Little did I know Suzanne Minor, MD (Suzie) would soon be instrumental and integral in the development of my new role as an educator.

The main route for my mentoring with Suzie was in my serving as assistant clerkship director. Working side by side with Suzie, I gained invaluable knowledge of the ins and outs of academic medicine. I learned the different ropes of leadership and administration: how to structure meetings especially with students, how to structure a clerkship, how to interact with preceptors and faculty, and how to perform faculty development opportunities. I was guided to be fearless in creating and developing, empowered with the freedom to design didactics and assessments and thus the clerkship curriculum. Additionally, I was afforded several publication opportunities, including peer-reviewed presentations and journal articles through our mentorship relationship. The knowledge, experience, and learned lessons gleaned from my mentoring relationship was overwhelming. The essence of a mentor is not only modeling leadership but also seeing the juice in the lemon and gently squeezing it out of the mentee to produce a great product.

Although being a mentee is a rewarding experience, there can be challenges to this role. Balancing independence yet not trying to seem completely foreign to topics and ideas is a struggle. It can be humbling to ask for advice and guidance every step of the way, you try not to seem like a novice to your role so that your mentor can trust you, but in actuality there are many things that need to be “checked in” just to ensure integrity and high-quality deliverance of tasks and duties. There’s a balance between autonomy and dependency, especially in the formative stages, but as time goes on and responsibility increases and relationship builds it does pose more so as a learning experience rather than as a stumbling block.

Being a mentee is more than just learning “stuff” from a mentor; the relationship that has blossomed from my mentee/mentor relationship transcends that. Rather, it is more of a lifelong friendship and a kindred assortment of opportunity, knowledge, leadership, and guidance.

If anyone would ask me “Should I seek a mentor?” my answer is “Yes!” The knowledge and benefits gained from working with and learning from someone who has been in the field is resounding and long-lasting.

On being the mentor

I am drawn to mentoring for the same reasons I was drawn to being a doctor: to live a meaningful life, to serve others through empowerment and education, and to connect to my fellow human being.  Of course, there are obvious benefits to being a mentee in a mentoring relationship, but are there any benefits for the mentor? I emphatically answer yes!

When Irmanie Eliacin, MD, started working in our department, I asked her to work with me on the family medicine clerkship as assistant clerkship director. In addition to her teaching me all the recent tech tricks, there are other tangible advantages to mentoring: as Irmanie’s skills in curricular design and implementation increased, I turned over the entire didactics section of the clerkship to her. In addition, to be a quality mentor, I had to stay sharp and thus worked on my own development with heightened enthusiasm. As she has developed as an educator, I have been able to vacation without worry, assured that she can handle whatever comes her way, addressing it herself or asking for help appropriately.

I also have benefited from increased scholarly production. At first, when I presented at conferences, Irmanie was the secondary presenter, learning the ropes of presenting. Now, she is the primary presenter, and I am her secondary. What about the challenges? Mentoring takes time and is a personal investment. A challenge for me was staying sharp in my own skills, just as we must be with students.  Further, I did not want to have a negative impact and reframed difficult situations we faced as opportunities, using care not to vent! A challenge but also of benefit for me.

The most gratifying aspects were the intangibles, which sustain this relationship. I valued witnessing her blossom in this role. Her enthusiasm helps to buffer any possibility of stagnation. I am completing a circle by mentoring, honoring those who have mentored me. I feel connected on a deep level and am more satisfied with life. I better develop my own core values. I learn and evolve in this relationship and actually become a better person.


The benefits we have received as a result of our mentoring relationship are written about by others in the literature. Benefits include identification of core values,1 the development of close, collaborative relationships,1 skills development in negotiation and conflict management, scholarly writing, and oral presentation,1,2 a sense of personal transformation and empowerment.1  The mentor in this relationship was professionally stimulated, personally was professionally stimulated, personally enriched, and rejuvenated. We are grateful for our mentoring relationship.

  1. Pololi LH, Knight SM, Dennis K, Frankel RM. Helping medical school faculty realize their dreams: an innovative, collaborative mentoring program. Acad Med 2002;77(5):377-84. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12010691
  1. Riley M, Skye E, Reed BD. Mentorship in an academic department of family medicine. Fam Med 2014;46(10):792-6. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25646831
  2. Pololi L, Knight S. Mentoring faculty in academic medicine. J Gen Intern Med 2005;20(9):866-70. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1490198/

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