Mentorship during residency is essential not only academically and surgically, but also as a human being. —Madeline Goosmann, MD, PGY-2 otolaryngology–head and neck surgery resident
Explore This IssueSeptember 2021
Surveys were emailed to 119 programs; program directors were asked to distribute the surveys to female residents. Of the 62 participants nationally, 87% stated that having at least one female attending or coresident was “very important” or “important.” The authors concluded that residency programs with women in these roles may gain a higher number of female residents, as they may be more desirable places than those without women in these roles.
“As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated specialty, fitting in can sometimes be a challenge,” explained Dr. Goosmann. She noted that when she met Kathleen L. Yaremchuk, MD, department chair of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at Henry Ford Hospital, as a medical student, “She was someone who served as an advocate and was a beacon for women entering the field.”
In special communication published earlier this year, Michael J. Brenner, MD, an associate professor in the department of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, and colleagues covered the concept of mentoring, with key shifts from passive to active engagement, unstructured to structured relationships, and near-peer and reverse mentorship (JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2021;147:389-394). Dr. Brenner explained that success is based on approaches including utilizing deliberate outreach, establishing a track record of success among diverse mentees, and cultivating new opportunities. It’s also important to create spaces for sharing knowledge, experiences, and challenges as part of the larger goal of championing diversity, equity, and inclusion. (Several of the authors of this work will also be featured in a live-streamed session at the 2021 American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Annual Meeting in October 2021.)
While having a peer group plays a vital role in a resident’s training, Dr. Brenner said that care should also be taken to ensure that opportunities for clinical activities, research, and leadership are distributed equitably among all residency learners in a program. There can be surprisingly large differences in the size of individuals’ available mentorship and sponsorship networks, and these differences have key implications for personal growth and career advancement.
“I’d like to reiterate the importance of being a talent scout for learners—seeing all of our bright aspiring learners as individuals with unique gifts,” he said. “Also, we as mentors have a duty to work in service of our mentees’ vision, rather than our own. The leaders of tomorrow will include both those who follow in the footsteps of today’s great leaders and many who blaze a new, less familiar trail: patenting technology, disrupting current approaches to care delivery, or adopting novel models of care. How we cultivate diverse talent in new otolaryngologists has major implications for what our specialty will look like in the years to come, and diversity is an engine for innovation and progress in our vibrant specialty.”
“Mentorship during residency is essential not only academically and surgically, but also as a human being,” added Dr. Goosmann. “Residency is a time of condensed learning, and it’s easy to live day to day without taking a step back and allowing time for yourself. Having a mentor to help mold you as an otolaryngologist is wonderful, and mentors can also keep you centered on the big picture of practice and being a compassionate and competent provider. Mentors allow you to view ideas and situations in a new light. They can help you reframe ideas and problem solve clinically, in research, and in career planning.”