Reviewed by Nicholas J. Volpe, MD
As the ophthalmology profession prepares for a potential skills gap while the average age of its physicians continues to increase, a key to finding tomorrow’s leaders may rest with teachers, who will be tasked with molding the next generation of ophthalmologists.
To ensure that a pipeline of talent continues, a key element for successful teachers today is mentoring. A key element in a mentoring program is a structure that informs action. Using a detailed, step-by-step, goal-oriented program helps individuals smoothly navigate on a successful career development pathway
Nicholas J. Volpe, MD, noted that it is key for leaders of education programs to connect their behavior to their message regarding what is important. Conflicting messages are unacceptable.
“Education is an unfunded but valuable mandate,” said Dr. Volpe, chair, Department of Ophthalmology, George W. and Edwina S. Tarry Professor of Ophthalmology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago.
“The bottom line is that, except for the limited resources given to program directors and educators by our medical centers, this mandate is mostly unfunded.” Mentorship and career development for ophthalmology educators differs from “faculty affairs” but it is intertwined and related. Successful development often is focused on success in various education roles.
Mentorship vs. development
There are important differences between mentorship and development. “Mentoring is the most important tool for developing leadership, and how future educators want to develop as faculty members often can emerge through mentorship relationships,” Dr. Volpe noted. “Unfortunately, mentoring is almost never aligned with resource allocation.”
In contrast, Dr. Volpe noted that development of career goals, often measurable milestones and directional, are met by faculty members as they achieve academic success. An important prerequisite to the mentoring process is a good match between the mentor and mentee. The relationship may be easiest when a very senior individual is matched with a very junior, Dr. Volpe noted, and explained that a conflicting role may exist when the mentor is both a chair and mentor.
Dr. Volpe said ophthalmology departments should take advantage of benefits beyond the department. Mentorship tools are important, he explained, because they can formalize the mentoring relationship, make the connection and move the mentor and mentee through the important sequence of events in the mentoring process.
Nicholas J. Volpe, MD
E: [email protected]
Dr. Volpe has no financial interest in any aspect of this report.