Doctor Manitoba Mentorship Program

When you look back at your training, you can probably think of a teacher, coach, or peer that really helped you and shaped your outlook.

When a physician signs up for the Doctors Manitoba Mentorship Program, he or she agrees to do just that – to help, to be honest, and to provide a broad range of perspectives and supportive resources to residents and medical students.

Indeed this has been the case with medical students and residents providing great feedback about the breadth and depth of knowledge being shared with them by mentors.

“Getting into medical school is incredibly exciting, you feel simultaneously proud, nervous, and full of joy. Actually starting medical school is very humbling, all of a sudden you are in this new environment, with new people, new rules, and you have no idea how to navigate through it. By matching medical students to physician and resident mentors, the Doctors Manitoba Mentorship Program clears away some of the murkiness of medical school; it provides students with someone to answer their questions, big or small, someone to provide them with guidance and advice; students feel that the program has reduced a lot of their fear and anxiety and enabled them to get back to feeling excited about the journey ahead of them,” said Achieng Tago, MMSA Vice-Stick External and third-year medical student.

But that type of mentorship, while valuable, wasn’t all that Doctors Manitoba had in mind when it created its Mentorship Program along partners at MMSA, PARIM and the College of Medicine (Students Affairs).

“We really wanted to create something unique for the entire profession where all participants enjoyed their experience and learned something from it,” said Matt Maruca, General Counsel at Doctors Manitoba.

With a view to also promoting professionalism and collegiality, the Doctors Manitoba Mentorship Program aims to connect practicing physicians, residents and medical students based on professional areas of interest. Those areas of interest can range from specialty to life experience to family to career stage.

“What we’ve seen is some really great and meaningful connections being formed – connections that have helped those participants in the short-term but that will undoubtedly benefit the profession in the long-term,” said Theresa Oswald, Doctors Manitoba CEO.

The surprise for many involved has been seeing the benefit to the physicians themselves who act as mentors.

Dr. Louis Fourie Smith, a family physician and Medical Director at Dakota Medical Centre in Winnipeg, was surprised by the unexpected return he has experienced.

“Being a mentor, sharing the values of the profession, providing insight where it matters, where the rubber meets the road, was rewarding. But that I expected. What was unexpected was what I received in return. A fresh perspective, a different point of view, an appreciation for the challenges the next generation of young physicians are facing. Their enthusiasm reminded me why I became a doctor myself. What a privilege to be trusted with influencing, teaching, mentoring and caring for your own.”

That privilege was also recognized by Dr. Sara Goulet, a family physician with Ongomiizwin – Health Services, and a house medical officer and hospitalist at HSC. Dr. Goulet stated, “Mentors are the core of medical education and fundamental to the creation of healthy communities in Manitoba. As a student, mentors helped me to understand the art and humanity in medicine. As a mentor, students help me to understand my own humanity in medicine, as I am humbled by the new and innovative ways they view this aged tradition.”

The Doctors Manitoba Mentorship Program tries to avoid being overly-formal and structured in order to accommodate physician’s busy medical practices. The informal design also allows participants to determine how best to form meaningful relationships. That could be meeting for coffee periodically, breaking bread while catching up, chatting via FaceTime or checking in now and again with the odd text message. This allows the participants and indeed the nature of the mentorship itself to change over time.

“Throughout medical school and into residency there were many people who supported me along the way. The Doctors Manitoba Mentorship Program provides an opportunity to give back and to help future colleagues navigate exciting and potentially stressful times at critical junctures in their career trajectories. The further I get from medical school the more I forget about how it felt. Intellectually you remember, but I think it’s nice to be able to pass some specific things on to those who are going through what you just went through, while it is still fresh and relevant. As I mature and grow in my career I hope to continue to mentor learners, but the nature of that mentorship relationship will evolve as I do,” said Dr. Annie Finlayson, an emergency medicine resident who mentors several medical students.

Dr. Jordyn Lerner, a resident who has a mentor while also acting as a mentor himself to medical students, sees value in the dual role. “I really like my mentor. Him and I have a lot in common. Since meeting him through the Mentorship Program, I’ve seen him at different Doctors Manitoba committees and events. We talk about everything from burnout to practice management to clinical scenarios. It’s great having a connection with a senior physician who’s in a non-evaluative role. I can share things without fear of those things appearing on an evaluation,” said Lerner.

And about acting as a Mentor too, Dr. Lerner quipped, “I like meeting with my med student mentees. They keep me young.”

Amongst the greatest mentorship success stories is Dr. Aaron Chiu and Dr. Leslie Simard-Chiu. Together, the have mentored a large group of residents and medical students for years. They take a hands-on approach, meeting with each regularly to talk about career planning and while also having dinner with the entire group a few times a year. This has allowed them to see first-hand the growth and the medical students and residents they have mentored, which has, in turn, allowed them to be a part of it.

“We have been mentors for years. My wife and I share the mentoring role and we greatly enjoy being mentors! Over the many years, we shared in their successes and helped during times of stress. Our mentor students have become an extended family.”