About the book

Mentorship in Academic Medicine is an evidence-based guide for establishing and maintaining successful mentoring relationships for both mentors and mentees.

Drawing upon the existing evidence-base on academic mentoring in medicine and the health sciences, it applies a case-stimulus learning approach to the common challenges and opportunities in mentorship in academic medicine. Each chapter begins with cases that take the reader into the evidence around specific issues in mentorship and provides actionable messages and recommendations for both correcting and preventing the problems presented in the cases.

Accompanying the text is an interactive, online learning resource on mentorship. This e-tool provides updated resources for mentors and mentees, including video clips and podcasts with effective mentors who share their mentorship tips and strategies for effective mentorship. It also provides updated departmental and institutional strategies for establishing, running, and evaluating effective mentoring programs.

Mentorship in Academic Medicine provides useful strategies and tactics for overcoming the common problems and flaws in mentoring programs and fostering productive and successful mentoring relationships and is a valuable guide for both mentors and mentees.

Table of Contents

  1. Acknowledgements, vii
  2. Introduction, ix
  3. Chapter 1: What is the evidence for mentorship?, 1
  4. Chapter 2: What are the characteristics and behaviors of effective mentors and mentees?, 11
  5. Chapter 3: How can you initiate mentorship?, 25
  6. Chapter 4.1: Mentorship meetings, priority setting, and time-management, 35
  7. Chapter 4.2: Protecting mentees from “dys-opportunities”, 50
  8. Chapter 4.3: Mentoring for knowledge generation, 72
  9. Chapter 4.4: Mentoring for knowledge dissemination, 87
  10. Chapter 4.5: Mentoring for promotion, protection, and job prospects, 99
  11. Chapter 5: How can you assess, diagnose, and treat mentorship that is in trouble?, 110
  12. Chapter 6: How can you initiate and maintain a mentorship progam?, 119
  13. Chapter 7: How can you evaluate the impact of a mentorship program?, 133
  14. Chapter 8: How can you scale up and sustain a mentorship program?, 148
  15. Index, 153


We reckon that few academics would argue against the importance of mentorship in academic medicine; after all, you’re reading this introduction! As we hope to convince you in Chapter 1, effective mentorship is a major determinant of academic success and both job and life satisfaction. However, although most studies of academic faculty suggest that they want mentorship [1–3], there are lots of academic settings in which less than 20% of them get it. In recognition of this yawning gap, many academic health institutions are developing mentorship programs and, in doing so, have recognized the paucity of educational as well as administrative resources to educate and support both mentors and mentees. We wrote this book to help meet this need.

How did we get interested in mentorship?

Sharon became interested in mentorship while completing a research fellowship at the University of Oxford under Dave’s supervision. At their first meeting, Dave asked her to outline her career goals as well as those for her research training. Dave’s response changed her life: he told her that his job was to make sure she achieved what she wanted in her fellowship and to support her in the development of her career path. This altruism was role modeled throughout the next few years and Dave’s amazing mentorship skills and expertise directly influenced her career and her own attempts at mentorship. When preparing to leave Oxford and begin her first faculty position, Sharon asked Dave how she could ever repay him for what he’d given to her and his immediate response was, “Do the same for others.” Now, after mentoring more than 50 graduate students and new faculty, Sharon states that one of the most fulfilling parts of her job is to be able to interact with and learn from her mentees. It is these experiences, plus the scarcity of resources describing how to develop and support mentorship, that led to several research projects and, ultimately, to this book.

Dave, akin to Molière’s Monsieur Jourdain*, was getting mentored for years before he knew it. Beginning in a US medical school in 1958 (back when man still had 48 chromosomes), and in his internship, first medical residency, and nephrology fellowship, he was “adopted” in turn by a bench scientist, a chair of medicine, and a nephrologist who didn’t simply recruit him into their bailiwicks as an extra brain and pair of hands to be “supervised.” Instead, and in turn, they took time each week or so to challenge his ways of thinking about what he “knew” and might be able to find out about human biology and clinical medicine, to open doors to the places (“restricted” labs and graduate courses) where he might learn how to find those things out, to critique and improve his plebeian writing and speaking skills, to explore his career interests and ambitions, and to help him think how he might pursue them through his next career moves. Twenty-five years later, after getting educated about mentoring and instituting it at a new Canadian medical and graduate school, his seventh mentor helped him think through and implement his second medicine residency. He’s now on his tenth mentor and gazillionth mentee, and beginning to get the hang of it [4].

*…who exclaimed: “Well, what do you know about that! These forty years now I’ve been speaking in prose without knowing it!” Molière: The Bourgeois Gentleman, 1670.

Who are the potential readers of this book?

We have written this book for aspiring academic researchers and educators (whom we’ll hereafter call mentees) and those experienced, empathic persons who guide them in the development and re-examination of their own ideas, learning, and personal and professional development (whom we’ll call mentors). We are academic physicians (namely, we are subspecialists in internal medicine and geriatric medicine and don’t presume to be experts in other clinical areas) who have largely worked in North America and the UK. Most of our mentees have been physicians, but we have mentored people from various disciplines including nursing, medicine, rehabilitation therapy, biostatistics, health informatics, education, and engineering amongst others and from different career paths including clinician educators, researchers, and administrators. While there is some material in this book that is relevant to anyone working in an academic institution, we don’t to pretend to be experts in mentorship for other types of clinicians and academics (such as those in other clinical disciplines or career paths) or for those working in low and middle income countries, and we encourage them to identify (or create) mentorship resources that outline issues unique to their mentorship needs. We invite these readers to share these resources with us via our website (www.mentorshipacademicmedicine.com) and to lead discussions on the website about which contents from the book are useful to them and which ones aren’t relevant. In the literature review that we conducted to inform this book, most of the articles focused on mentorship for clinician scientists. We found less research that targeted clinician educators and clinician administrators and thus our discussion of mentorship for academics following these career paths is not exhaustive. Again, we encourage our readers to send any relevant research targeting these individuals to our website.

We have targeted our book primarily at mentoring in academic institutions. Accordingly, we have viewed our readers and their interests, goals, aspirations, opportunities, resources, challenges, and dilemmas through that lens, and at both the individual and institutional levels:

Is this book about the theory or practice of mentorship?

There are some brilliant people who are continuing to develop a theoretical basis for mentoring [5, 6]: we are not among them. This book is about the practice of mentoring.

How is this book organised?

This book employs a case-stimulus learning approach:

Where did we get the evidence for the material in this book?

We identified the evidence in each chapter from three sources:

  1. Our systematic reviews and updates of the mentorship literature. Updates since this book went to press can be found on our website.
  2. Our 2012 survey of international colleagues who have been recognized by their peers as being excellent mentors. We identified 271 colleagues from various academic settings around the world who have been active in various career pathways and have some expertise as a mentor. We invited them to complete a survey, either electronically or via phone interview, and to share their thoughts on targets for effective mentorship, tips for achieving these targets, potential mentorship problems, and strategies for overcoming these problems. Forty-five colleagues responded to our request and we have incorporated their anonymized responses in this book. We have posted the survey on our website that accompanies this book (www.mentorshipacademicmedicine.com) and we invite readers to take a few minutes to review it and share their answers to the survey with us.
  3. Our own experiences as mentors, mentees and developers of institution-level mentorship programs.

Because the GRADE system [7] doesn’t yet have a scale for assessing qualitative literature, we used a modified version to describe the validity and “trustability” of the evidence we present in each chapter. In brief, we labelled evidence as high quality when we are highly confident that the true effect of the mentoring intervention lies close to that estimated in the publication. For example, evidence is judged as high quality if all of the following apply:

We judge evidence as moderate quality when we consider the true effect is likely to be close to the published estimate of the effect, but there is a possibility that it is substantially different. For example, evidence might be judged as moderate quality if any of the following applies:

Finally, we judge evidence to be low quality when the true effect may be substantially different from the published estimate of its effect. For example, evidence might be judged as low quality if any of the following apply:

What other mentorship resources are available to complement this book?

We are supplementing and updating the contents of this book on our website at www.mentorshipacademicmedicine.com. As this book was being published, it included:

A major portion of this website will provide updates of new evidence for each chapter so that readers can see what’s new or different since the book was published. We’ll update this evidence-base by repeating our systematic reviews. Furthermore, we’ll translate any new, valid evidence into new, effective strategies and tactics for mentees, mentors, and institutions.

We invite you, our readers, to take over the website.

The usual standards for website participation will be employed, and you are free to sign your contributions (and be acknowledged for them) or remain anonymous.

Publication Information

Mentorship in academic medicine (paperback) / Sharon E. Straus and David L. Sackett.

First edition first published 2014 © 2014 by John Wiley & Sons.

BMJ Books is an imprint of BMJ Publishing Group Limited, used under licence by John Wiley & Sons. Registered office: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 8SQ, UK

Set in 9.5/12pt Minion by Laserwords Private Limited, Chennai, India.

Product dimensions
9.8 × 5.9 × 0.6 inches
Shipping weight
1.5 pounds

At Amazon.com, you can order both a paperback edition and a Kindle edition of the book.