A mentor might be defined simply as a senior professional willing and able to provide support and direction for younger colleagues or learners. But it’s also a challenge requiring particular skills and strengths. Just how are mentors made?

In her fourth and final year of residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), Jennifer Murphy, DO, MS, was named chief resident, an honor as well as a serious responsibility. In the PM&R program, the academic chief resident develops the didactic curriculum, communicates regularly with residents and other learners, and acts as an intermediary between attending physicians and residents.

It's a demanding role, but Dr. Murphy has support from the Emerging Leaders Program, part of the Office of Graduate Medical Education (GME) Institutional Initiatives to train chief residents to be superb leaders. Now halfway through the program, Dr. Murphy praises Emerging Leaders for providing new insight into her leadership style.

“I’ve become more aware of how my behavior may be perceived and drive or stifle the productivity and teamwork of the entire health care team, not just other residents,” she said. “Thankfully, we have also been educated on viewpoints that may differ from our own and how to manage that in a productive way.”

The program introduces strategies for intentional leadership. “For our first meeting, we completed a DiSC assessment to evaluate our own behaviors and how they may be impacting others around us,” Dr. Murphy explained. “The second meeting provided insight not only into our own natural coaching styles, but into types of team members and how they are best coached. The last meeting to date provided us with tools for building trust within our teams.”

Dr. Murphy also values the breadth of involvement by GME house staff. The program has provided the opportunity to glean insight from chiefs across GME that I may not have otherwise had the opportunity to interact with.”

She has good advice for those learners looking for mentors. “Never underestimate the value of the unexpected mentor, that upper-level or attending you click with on rounds and things are just better. When you find those mentors, pick their brain for everything and anything. Never stop being a mentee and make yourself available to pull the next person up behind you as their mentor. You can never have too many mentors. Plus, if you are like me and have a lot of questions, it never hurts to spread the love!”

Dr. Murphy will begin UK’s interventional pain management fellowship in July 2023.

This story was featured in the Winter 2023 edition of UK Medicine magazine. To read the full issue, click here.