At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.  The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.  After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.



I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.



I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind).  One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.


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The Dangers of Codependent Mentoring

This is the situation where the mentor and mentee become codependent on each other. From the mentor’s stand- point, there are some who may be a “rescuer,” a person who needs to help another  because of a self-serving addiction and who is unable to differentiate between his own needs and those of the people he is purporting to help (Kets de Vries 2013). The problem with rescuers is that they tend to build unnecessary, unhealthy, and sometimes inappropriate dependency relationships with the people they want to help. This will result in the mentor as a very ineffective helper, and at worst, harms the mentee by co opting the person that should be helped, in an attempt to fulfill the mentor's compulsions. Moreover, the rescuer is a victim also. People become rescuers because they have a need to be liked, and saying “no” to someone who has asked a favor is to let that person down and possibly court being disliked.

By the same token, mentees may find themselves turning more and more to a mentor or coach whose help seems to be increasingly essential. A mentee should need less mentoring over time, not more.

Mentoring Millennials

Millennials (Generation Ys) are defined as people born between 1977 and 1997.  Presently, Millennials account for nearly half the employees in the world. In some companies, they constitute a majority (for instance, Silicon Valley companies).

Meister and Willyerd (2010) polled 2,200 professionals across a wide range of industries and asked them what they wanted from their employers. Their findings revealed that Millennials did want a constant stream of feedback, and they were in a hurry for success,  but their expectations were not as outsized as persons might assume. Millennials view work as a key part of life, but not a separate activity that needs to be “balanced” by it. They place a strong emphasis on finding work that is personally fulfilling. They want work to afford them the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills, and connect to a larger purpose. That sense of purpose is a key factor in their job satisfaction, according to the research by Meister and Willyerd (2010). Millennials appear to be the most socially conscious generation  since the 1960s.

On the other hand, Millennials want a roadmap to success, and they expect their workplaces to provide it. Mentoring Millennials can drain the mentor’s energy.  Meister and Willyerd (2010) have identified three kinds of mentoring that will prepare Millennials for success without requiring mentors to spend inordinate time coaching.  While these three approaches will work with other generations as well, they are especially effective with Millennials.

The first approach is reverse mentoring.  With medical students or residents, this is exemplified by shifting the responsibility for organizing mentoring to medical student or resident peers. This can be effected, for instance, by having senior residents mentor medical students. It is an effective way to give the medical student a window into the higher levels of the medical organization.  The second kind of mentoring is a group process. Group mentoring is a less- resource-intensive, but still effective way of giving Millennials the feedback they crave. One mentor works with several mentees at a time, usually in a group. With social media, this appears to be significantly effective. The models for group mentoring come primarily from the business literature, and there are a few examples of this in the medical literature, but there is no reason why it should not be as equally effective.

The last kind is anonymous mentoring. This is much more complicated and is somewhat analogous to the model being developed by the Lexington Medical Society. This method uses psychological testing and a background review to match mentees with trained mentors  outside the organization (the medical school).  Exchanges may be conducted entirely online, but in the case of the LMS Program, the seasoned physician does not remain anonymous to the medical student. This type of engagement generally lasts six to twelve months. In those platforms using psychological testing and matching procedures, mentors have been amazed at how well they are paired with their mentee. With the use of social media, such as email, text messaging, Facebook, or Twitter, the thirst for guidance sought by the Millennial can be satisfied by using microfeedback. This is where the mentee asks a question of the mentor, and gets a message in return by email, etc.  Because the length of the message is limited, this forces  mentors to think carefully about their responses, and because they must respond relatively immediately, they are able to provide useful real-time detail. The software involved collates the responses into a performance dashboard so that  mentees can track their own private trend lines or skills they are endeavoring to improve. It is hoped that the alignment between the Lexington Medical Society and the University of Kentucky, College of Medicine, to provide mentorship experiences for third year medical students, will prove fruitful for both the mentor and the mentee.


Mentoring is an art form developed in the United States in the 1970s within large private companies and corporations and is used to support junior staff. Since the 1990s, mentoring programs have emerged in various medical professions, most frequently in the field of nursing though, rather than physician practice. Formal mentoring programs for medical students and doctors did not develop until the late 1990s (Buddeberg-Fisher and Herta 2006). However, many definitions have arisen in regard to mentoring  physician trainees. The one most frequently cited in English scientific literature is from SCOPME: [Standing Committee on Postgraduate Medical and Dental Education: Supporting doctors and dentists at work: An inquiry into mentoring (see Frei et al. 2010)]: "A process whereby an experienced, highly regarded, empathetic person (the mentor) guides another (usually younger) individual (the mentee) in the development and re-examination of their own ideas, learning, and personal and professional development. The mentor, who often (but not necessarily) works in the same organization or field as the mentee, achieves this by listening or talking in confidence to the mentee."

Mentoring Basics

Business models often describe mentoring as an older executive counseling a young upstart.  The senior leader advises the junior employee on his career, how to navigate the world of work, and what he needs to do to get ahead. However, mentoring has changed significantly in the last few decades, and the traditional mentor-mentee


relationship is not necessarily the standard. There are many ways for mentees to get the information and guidance they need.

While mentoring has changed its form, our collective thinking on it has not, and many held-over myths still prevail (Gallo 2011). One of the commonest myths is that the mentee has to have one perfect mentor to be successful. That is actually quite rare, and most persons throughout their career will have more than one mentor. A second myth is that mentoring is a formal long-term relationship. This also is generally not true due to the turnover in careers. However, it is important that the mentee build relationships so that when she requires advice, she has the connections already in place. A third myth is that mentoring is always for junior people.  Actually, people at every stage of work life can benefit from mentoring assistance. The key is to find the right kind of advice and the right mentor at the right time. Gallo (2011) stresses the dos and don’ts of mentoring. From the mentee’s standpoint, these include:



Robert P. Granacher, Jr., MD, MBA practices clinical and forensic neuropsychiaty in Lexington and Mt. Vernon, KY. He is a noted scientific author and past president of the Kentucky Psychiatric Medical Association. He is currently president-elect of the Lexington Medical Society and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.