The Only Requirement for Mentors

The Only Requirement for Mentors

Anees B. Chagpar, MD, MPH, MBA, MSc, MA, FACS, FRCS, FASCO

Aug 15, 2010

It is no secret that one of the “secrets of success” is having a good mentor, or more often, a team of mentors who help shepherd you into being better than you are. These are the people who give you advice, who open doors and provide opportunities, who caution against pitfalls, and who ultimately stand in the background and let you shine in the glory. There is no question that I have had outstanding mentors, and I am eternally grateful for all they have done (and continue to do) for me. I know I take up their time and energy, often chipping into their evenings and weekends, and probably cause them to get many more gray hairs than they deserve. I often wondered why they do what they do – what’s in it for them? Now that I have had the opportunity to mentor others, I realize that there is this unmistakable joy in helping someone else to succeed... and I hope that I will make my mentors proud.

As ASCO considers how to develop the next generation of leaders, the Society has become increasingly aware of the value of mentorship. So who makes the best mentors? And where do we find them? Are these people at one’s own institution? In one’s own field? Or can they come from outside? How do we foster these relationships? Should the mentoring relationship be formally arranged, or is it something organic that just kind of happens? Should mentors be of the same race and gender as the mentee? Or does that matter? I’d love to hear what all of you think about this barrage of questions, but here’s my take:

For me, the best mentors are the people who care about you. Period. That’s it.That’s the only requirement. They can be in your field, out of your field; in your institution, out of your institution - whatever. I am blessed to have a multitude of people who I consider mentors. Many are surgeons, but many are not; some are from my institution, some are not... and while each of them guides me in different aspects of my life, they are all profoundly important and dear to me. I think it is critical for young oncologists to have support from within their own institutions and from within their own specialties – it’s hard to get ahead without this – but it is often beneficial to complement this support with mentors from outside. ASCO is in an ideal position to help with this, as we have a robust membership of some of the most stellar researchers, clinicians, and leaders on the planet.

But from a practical standpoint, how do we do this? Should mentors be assigned to mentees? Or is there some “chemistry” between mentor and mentee that is required? I must say, for me, it’s always been a bit of an organic thing – you find people with whom you just “click” – but ASCO can certainly provide the opportunity to find your perfect match. It really doesn’t matter to me whether my mentors are male or female, black or white, there is only one requirement: a mentor is someone who cares about you, and as one of my mentors once told me, “Your friends and your mentors are your friends and your mentors – they’ll always be there for you, no matter what.” How awesome is that?!


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