3 reasons doctors should become mentors

Doctors talking
Doctors who mentor medical students can get a lot in return. Getty/wmiami

Mentors can play an important role for medical students, but those students also give back to the doctors who help them.

As the associate dean of the Medical College of Georgia, he’s constantly looking for preceptors who will engage with his students, writes Leonard Reeves, M.D., in a post on the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Leader Voices blog. Doctors may know it’s important to mentor the next generation of family physicians, but they also might ask what’s in it for them, he says. Here are just a few reasons, he says, for doctors to become mentors:

Students keep you on your toes. They can challenge you to stretch your knowledge base and help you stay up-to-date. Reeves said his experience as a faculty member with a family medicine residency program was as rewarding as seeing patients.

It will rekindle the joy of medicine. Reeves teaches third-year medical students and says as they connect with patients they get in touch with the real reason they went to medical school. And it can help older docs rediscover their own joy in practicing medicine. 

You'll help train the future generation. “Think about it, we need to train the next generation of family physicians, family physicians who will one day take care of us,” he said.

RELATED: For young doctors, a mentor can provide emotional support

A 2015 survey of fourth-year medical students who were AAFP members revealed that 93% who went into family medicine residency programs said strong mentors in the field influenced their choice. 

Indeed, Tovia Smith, M.D., a young doctor who now works at Virginia Women’s Center, credits her mentors for her choice in specialty, in an article she wrote in the La Crosse Tribune. First, there was her father, a practicing cardiologist, who inspired her with an unparalleled work ethic.

“No matter what job you hold, having mentors to guide you and give you courage is imperative,” she wrote, adding she was also blessed to learn from female surgeons who offered great care to their patients and also managed to maintain a work-life balance. A mentor at the University of Virginia persuaded her to pursue an OB/GYN residency and seek a postgraduate fellowship in urogynecology—the specialty she now practices.