How to Be A Mentor

Joshua Ho
Published on Nov 15, 2021. Updated on Nov 15, 2021.

Today on the blog, Osmosis Medical Education Fellow, Joshua Ho, shares with us some tips on effectively thinking about your experiences in medical school or otherwise, and how to approach taking on the role of a mentor. 

When starting out in Med school, I was so lost that the last thing I imagined was having anything to offer other students or juniors. This was true during my first year when I felt out of my depth and began to question whether I should have even applied for medical school in the first place—imposter syndrome.

It was the seniors and classmates that encouraged me. They went out of their way to provide guidance. I benefited and their effort and compassion motivated me to do the same when I got further along in my degree.

Whether you officially take on a role at your school or are just trying to be as helpful of a senior as you can, here are some steps you can take to help better mentor. While I’m writing this from the perspective of my time in medical school, these can be easily applied to any point of your education or career.

Be Reflective

As you're going through medical school, take the time during each semester to write down your thoughts and feelings about how the semester is going, the standard of teaching and anything else that you feel has impacted you and your studies.

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Some questions that can help guide your reflection, ‘What would I have liked to know before starting this phase?’, ‘Where do I need to focus most of my time and attention?’, & ‘What could I change to improve my approach?’.

As you evaluate what you think is going right or wrong during this time, it not only helps you redirect yourself to help you achieve your goals, but what you’ve reflected on is something that you can easily pass on to your mentees.

Be Intentional

While it may be tempting to be more a reactive mentor and just answer questions when approached, it will be much more appreciated if you are proactive and provide your mentees with useful information when you think it would be helpful for them, in the particular stage of studies they are in at that moment. You can give advice about specific modules, study tactics & resources or even being willing to meet up and teach difficult topics to them.

Put in the effort with the people who are receptive. There will always be people you start out mentoring, but who decide they’d rather just do things alone. Don’t let that discourage you from being a good mentor to the rest of the people who do appreciate what you’re doing for them.

Be Yourself

Joshua playing a guitar.

Don’t feel like you have to fit a certain person as a mentor. While you are trying to pass wisdom down to your mentees, you can do that while treating them as friends or colleagues rather than as an authority figure. Feel free to check up on them to see how they are doing both inside & outside of their studies and if there’s any way that you can help. Being compassionate towards your mentees is just as important as any practical advice you can offer, especially as they learn to adjust to the intense expectations and demands of medical school.

In summary

Whether you think so or not, you always have something to share with other people. Be it advice or experiences, you probably have something that would be valuable to someone else. This applies to when you’re an accomplished doctor all the way down to when you’ve finished even just a semester in medical school.

Being reflective, intentional & genuine are just some of the ways that you can try to be a mentor.

You can also take steps as you go through your medical career, in order to help you reflect on your experiences and pass on any learning points you have to those under you.

About Joshua Ho

Josh is a third year medical student at the University College Dublin. When he’s not on the wards, in theatre or the library, you can possibly find him playing guitar, rock climbing & trying to befriend all the animals in the neighborhood. Medical interest in Pediatrics & Pediatric Surgery. 


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