Mentoring Residents

Shriram Nallamshetty, MD, Angela Rogers, MD, MPH, Stephanie Harman, MD, Ronald Witteles, MD, and Neera Ahuja, MD

The latest class of internal medicine residents—50 of them—arrived on the Stanford campus at the end of June. They had just completed four rigorous years of medical school, and they were looking forward to the next phase of their careers.

Residency is an important time when newly minted MDs hone and develop their knowledge and skill. It’s also a critical time for mentorship and guidance. Two Department of Medicine programs are specifically designed to support incoming residents and propel them into successful professional and academic careers.

Pathways of Distinction

Pathways of Distinction, or PODs, is a new initiative that allows residents to select one of several individualized pathways—clinical research, underserved populations/ global health, clinical teaching, primary care, basic/translational science, and innovation/biodesign—that best aligns with their academic and professional interests. Each POD is led by a senior faculty member in the department, and offers residents a host of opportunities, including lectures, courses, specialized rotations, and additional training. “The PODs allow residents to get extra mentorship and training, and provide a unique addition to their education that they wouldn’t have the ability to receive elsewhere,” explains Ronald Witteles, MD (associate professor, Cardiovascular Medicine), who directs the residency program.

The PODs are also meant to encourage connection between residents and faculty. “As the program matures, residents can expect a growing sense of community amongst the participants as well as faculty.”

Though the program is only a few months old, Witteles says that preliminary feedback has been positive. “We’ve received a lot of informal, positive reviews from the residents so far. We recognize that it’s a brand new program and we’ll learn along the way. We’ll undoubtedly make some changes, and we’re extremely interested in hearing from both the residents and the faculty, but we’re excited about this. I think it’s going to be a great addition to the residency program.”

Faculty Mentorship Program

A second opportunity is the department’s core faculty mentorship program, which gives interns an additional layer of sponsorship and support. The program, which is now entering its third year, pairs first-year interns with a core faculty membership team comprised of one senior and one junior faculty advisor. This structure is valuable to residents, Witteles says, because it introduces them to a range of perspectives. “If you’re a new intern, there are a lot of things you can learn from a junior faculty member and a senior faculty member. For example, one might be able to answer your questions about how to succeed on the wards, while the other might be able to offer broad, far-reaching career advice.”

These mentorship groups meet quarterly throughout an intern’s career, often at casual, off-hour events. “Though these meetings are meant to be informal, they provide an important opportunity for career guidance, and they create a real sense of community,” says Witteles. “The faculty have really enjoyed getting to know residents in a less formal, unstructured setting.”

Additionally, the mentorship program aims to encourage interns’ scholarly pursuits and research interests. “One of the advantages of training at Stanford is the ability to work with faculty with the experience and enthusiasm for scholarly pursuits. It’s easy for a resident to get caught up in the day-to-day of being a resident, learning clinical medicine. So we make sure to focus on linking residents with faculty members who can work with them on scholarly work early on. We believe it is our job and a key priority to make sure residents all have the opportunity to pursue and succeed in original scholarly work while they’re here.”

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