Expat Magazine

How to Be a Good Mentor? Bonus: Top Tips for Medical Students

By Expatdoctormom1 @ExpatDoctorMom
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When I was asked to mentor for the Qatar Professional Women’s Network as part of the Circle of Pearl mentoring program, it was an easy choice. I would have loved to have had an official mentor in medical school.

The kick off for the program was a workshop for both mentors and mentees.  The program is being followed in the media locally. So no more walking out of the house unkempt!

My mentee, Diala Steitieh is a young 1st year medical student at Weill Cornell’s 6 year program in Qatar. Diala who is only 17, is a Palestinian Canadian born in Tunisia.  Her career aspirations are:  “More than anything I’d love to be able to help people in a way that keeps them safe, healthy and happy.  I want to be able to use my knowledge, and to transform that knowledge into action that can help people from across different countries—to be able to make a real difference with what I know.”

Before the workshop, I had ideas of how I would mentor her but am pleased we had professionals come in and put on the workshop.

Unlike, coaching which allows the coached to determine the best route for themselves or teaching which is dictating how things are done, mentoring is all about guidance. 

Through the 3-hour workshop, we had various icebreakers with the mentors and then our mentees.  We identified what we all thought mentoring was and wasn’t.  I have so much I want to tell my mentee, I was pleased to have ground rules, as I know my tendency would be to talk and talk and talk.

We are slated to meet once a month for the next 6 months.  For the first meeting, our goal was to set goals and meeting times. These will be dictated by my mentee Diala.

The mentoring program got me thinking about what I wish I knew before going into medical school.  I have decided to chronicle the program here so others who want to mentor as well as medical students could benefit.


Here is my top tips for medical students:

  1. With so much to learn, stay on top of the material, do not cram it all in.
  2. Prepare for the boards from day 1.  Part 1 is the hardest as it is the most technical and the one you least apply in real medicine.
  3. Find like-minded students and hang out with them.
  4. Call the cutthroat students on their bad behavior, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. This can be done diplomatically.  We had a woman who arrived early to gross anatomy class so should could always dissect (You learn more by dissecting) There was no way to prevent this so the team came up with a schedule of who would dissect when.  This put an end to her monopoly on dissection time.
  5. During rotations you will be torn between reading the whole subject (i.e. Obstetrics) vs. reading up on each patient.  Focus on knowing your patients first.  You will retain the material far better by using your learned knowledge right away. Then read the whole book.
  6. Keep an open mind about what you will specialize in. It may change and you might be surprised by what you like or don’t like.
  7. Learn to let it roll off of you, if you don’t choose academia or whatever fields your attending/resident is in.  You will be made to feel that anything less than academia is inferior i.e. clinical medicine.  And, every specialty has its beef with the others.
  8. You can utilize your residents as mentors by asking them to share their experiences.  This will help you see if the field they are in is compatible with your goals and likes.  I learned a lot about fields I had initial interest in.  I was grateful that a female surgical resident told me that you have to “eat, breath, sleep and live” surgery.  Despite how interesting surgery was, it was not for me.
  9. Think about what will make you stand apart from other medical students when you apply for residency.  Everyone has good grades going into medical school and has done a million activities.  What will make you stand out? Implement whatever this is from day one.
  10. One for the ladies: an elegant female physician gave our graduation speech.  She said: always have a classic LBD, a strand of pearls and one good handbag.  Loved this!  I would add one good pair of shoes. So many in medicine dress dreadfully.  Don’t be part of this crowd. Particularly for your residency interviews.
  11. Learn Social Media and what is appropriate for medicine within Social Media early on.  It is part of the wave of the future.


To this list, I will add a list provided by a physician I network with on Linked In as I thought his list was brilliant. Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA who is Professor of Otolaryngology, Engineering and Dentistry at the University of Colorado and also the founding President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs says:

1. Like anything else, follow your heart, not your parents
2. There are lots of ways to make a difference with an MD degree other than seeing patients
3. You will need to get your ticket punched (MD degree, residency) to do most of them
4. Don’t tell the admissions officer at the medical school that you have no interest in practicing medicine.
5. Hear all the people who are bitching. Just don’t listen to them.
6. Don’t be a slave to debt if possible. Sacrifice and pay it off as soon as possible
7. Taking care of business is a part of taking care of patients. Start learning it as soon as possible on your own because you won’t learn it in medical school
8. Innovate
9. Innovate
10. Innovate

Will keep you posted monthly as to how things are going and maybe even give you my top 10 tips for residency.


Your turn

If you are a medical student, what is the best guidance you have ever been given? If you are a doctor, what tips would you give to new medical student? If you are a mentor what did you learn about the experience you would like to share?


Photo Credit: Rob Altamirano. Diala is third from the right top row.

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