Dear Pat responds to Missing Mentors

01 Oct 2018

Dear Pat,

Many of my male faculty have suggested that I find a female mentor to help me with career development. However, we have a handful of female faculty at my program, and I do not have a close working relationship with them. How do you go about identifying female mentors who are in the field and job type you’re interested in if your own program doesn’t have any? Also, do I need to have a female mentor as a woman?


Missing Mentors


Dear “Missing Mentors,”

Mentors come in all shapes and sizes and genders.  Rarely will you find a single mentor that can truly help you with all aspects of your life and career.  In fact, I would highly recommend that you seek out and develop multiple mentoring relationships – more folks who you can bounce ideas off, get perspective from, and help you grow.   Certainly, men can be exceptional mentors to women in most topics. Most of us women in surgery have benefited greatly from strong male mentors. A mentor may not even be in your chosen specialty!  I have mentored women going into gynecology, family practice and gastroenterology. Looking outside your specialty may be helpful.

When you don’t find a good mentor at your home institution, there are lots of places to start looking for remote mentorship.  Ideally, it is really nice to have some personal contact with that person, so start by looking at organizations where you are a member, such as Association of Women Surgeons or other professional organizations.  There may be local surgery groups within your city that meet in person. People are even finding good mentors through social media – twitter, Surgeons Mom’s Group, etc.

With any mentoring relationship, you want to find someone with whom you “click”.  Whether it is the same love of colorectal surgery, a research interest in quality outcomes, or having children the same age, having a mutual area of interest helps start the relationship off in a good place. Walking up to someone and asking “Will you be my mentor?” is rarely the beginning of a great relationship. Working with a surgeon who has similar ideas, perspective, or just seems like a great person is a better start.  Take some time to do some research: What do they write about? What do they talk about? How do they say it? Then try to find a project or activity where you can work together and see if they are a good fit for you.


Good luck!

Sharon Stein, MD FACS FASCRS

For more information on mentorship from prior posts in the AWS Blog see below:

Dr. Stein is a board-certified surgeon in general and colorectal surgery. Her clinical interests are in the minimally invasive treatment of colon and rectal diseases and inflammatory bowel disease. Dr. Stein is active in education; in addition to being the Program Director of Colorectal Surgery Residency at Case Western School of Medicine, she has directed or served as faculty on more than fifty courses in laparoscopic colon and rectal and minimally invasive surgery. She is an Associate Examiner for the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery. She is creator and co-director of the annual Colon and Rectal Surgery Career Course, which focuses on providing real world skills to graduating colon and rectal surgery residents. She serves as the faculty advisor for the Case Western School of Medicine women in surgery interest group and a founder of the Northeastern Ohio Women In Surgery networking and educational group.

Dr. Stein earned her medical degree from University of Colorado School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and a fellowship in Colon and Rectal Surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospitals of Cornell and Columbia. She worked for Medecins sans Frontieres prior to joining the staff of New York Presbyterian Cornell Hospital, and moved to University Hospitals/Cleveland Medical Center in 2009.

She became active in the Association of Women Surgeons as an attending, and has appreciated the outstanding networking opportunities within the organization. “To me, connectivity is key. Through the Association of Women Surgeons, I have had the opportunity to interact with amazing leaders in surgery, who I might not have met otherwise. The AWS gives us a common bond, allowing us a starting point to create new relationships and find mutual interests”. She is honored to be selected as a 2016-2017 Kim Ephgrave Visiting Professor.

The Association of Women Surgeons (AWS) is excited to bring to you a resident and fellow focused blog titled, “Dear Pat”. “Dear Pat” answers questions about issues pertinent to surgical residents and fellows, such as navigating through residency, applying to fellowship, family planning, and handling difficult situations on the job. Questions may be submitted by residents and fellows anonymously and will be answered by AWS council members. This monthly blog is published the fourth Sunday of each month. We want to hear from you, if you are interested in submitting your anonymous question, use this link.


Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.


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