Mentorship is a matter of passion and practicality

Published on August 29, 2018
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Stick figures (vector art)Mentoring or being mentored is a way to share a passion for veterinary medicine as well as a practical partnership with benefits for both sides.

Panelists and audience members shared this sentiment and further advice at the session "To Be or Not To Be: The Power of Mentorship" on July 15 at AVMA Convention 2018 in Denver.

The panel members were Dr. Jeremy Keen, a small animal practitioner; Dr. Mark Russak, a past president of the American Animal Hospital Association; Dr. Lori Teller, longtime small animal practitioner and current member of the AVMA Board of Directors; Dr. Emily Tincher, a 2016 graduate and small animal practitioner; Stith Keiser, a consultant in practice management; and Beckie Mossor, secretary of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America.

Once you share your life with different people in your profession or just in life in general, it starts a chain reaction that is going to last longer than your life.

Dr. Jeremy Keen, small animal practitioner

Dr. Keen believes the point of mentorship is sharing. He said, "Once you share your life with different people in your profession or just in life in general, it starts a chain reaction that is going to last longer than your life. It's going to impact a lot of people."

Dr. Tincher said veterinary students might feel pressure to find a perfect mentor, but finding the right mentor for her has meant finding many mentors—including some within her age group.

For practice owners, mentorship takes time, Dr. Russak said, and time is money. He said, "On the same token, I would argue the opposite end, that it's actually an investment. The return on investment from mentoring you correctly will really pay dividends in the long run."

Keiser said new veterinarians looking for mentorship can pitch why it matters to the practice owner. Rather than just asking if the owner will provide mentorship, they can talk about how the mentorship will work.

"It's very important to know what you want on both sides," Dr. Teller agreed, particularly in a formal mentorship but even in an informal one.

Among veterinary technicians, Mossor said, mentoring looks different because it is essential to job longevity. She said many veterinary technicians leave the field after five or six years. She emphasized that being a veterinary technician is not a consolation prize. She said veterinary technicians chose to be providers of nursing care.

The panelists and audience members agreed that veterinary technicians also can serve as mentors to new veterinarians.

Dr. Tincher said another avenue for mentorship is through involvement in organized veterinary medicine, which is how she found almost all of her mentors.

AAHA has developed a variety of mentoring materials, starting with the 2008 AAHA Mentoring Guidelines.

Related JAVMA content:

AAHA accrediting internship and mentorship programs (May 15, 2015)