For residents, by residents: Mentorship program focuses on radiation oncology

Mentorship is important for trainees in any healthcare specialty, but according to the authors of a new case study in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, it is especially important in radiation oncology (RO). Mentors in RO are in short supply, however, so the study’s authors decided to do something about it.

“Over the last several years, our group has implemented a formal program to pair resident mentees and practicing physician mentors at annual national society conferences including the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and American College of Radiation Oncology annual meetings,” wrote lead author Steven Engel, MD, department of RO at the University of Miami, and colleagues. “Attempts were made to make such pairings sensitive to the interests of the mentee, including academic, geographic, and practice interests as a means to encourage development and forge new relationships.”

In their case study, the authors focused on their mentorship match program at the 2016 American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) annual meeting. The team reached out to major academic center program directors, the American College of Radiation Oncology, the U.S. RO resident community and local faculty in search of both mentees and mentors. Pairs were assigned, introduced via e-mail and asked to schedule their own meeting times during the meeting.

Overall, a total of 49 mentor-mentee pairs were matched together, with some mentors even agreeing to work with two mentors instead of just one. All postgraduate years (PGYs) were represented, with PGY-3 making up 35 percent of the mentee group and both PGY-4 and PGY-5 each making up 24 percent of the group.

After the ASTRO meeting was complete, 67 percent of the mentees and 69 percent of the mentors completed a survey. On a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, nearly every responder rated the program either a 4 or a 5 overall. Ninety-four percent of the mentees and 77 percent of the mentors said they planned on continuing the relationship.

“Overall, this mentorship program was very well received by both attendings and residents, with participation only limited by the number of attending mentors available,” the authors wrote. “Increased attending participation and possible cooperation with other RO specialty societies may help RO residents discover desirable mentorship to facilitate optimal professional development.”