Medscape's Mentor of the Year: An Interview With Donna Magid

Ryan Syrek, MA


January 05, 2018

Medscape: What do you think older, experienced doctors get from mentoring younger students or doctors?

Dr Magid: I feel that I'm partly a catalyst. I'm not giving [younger doctors and students] potential; I'm simply applying the ability to recognize the potential. When I enable them to grow, it's more gratifying than if I grow myself. Everything has an expiration date; research becomes dated. If you keep energizing juniors, they do better and get the confidence themselves to try something. It's like self-perpetuating perpetual motion, outlasting any one individual.

We all have to do more and more work in the same time and in the same place. Our workloads are expanding, the financing is tighter, people aren't always getting reimbursed at an adequate level, and it's exhausting. But the one thing in my day that doesn't exhaust me is teaching or talking to either my residents or my med students. It is worth it.

I take excellent care of the patients I'm supposed to take care of, but I think it's really even more important that I take care of the people who are going to take over for me when I'm not here anymore. Sooner or later, we all move on; we retire, we step down, we get our time, we go into something else. But if I left all of these people behind me enabled, energized, and encouraged, then I did some good that lasts a little bit longer than just reading some cases or helping a clinician.

Medscape: Do you have any advice for the mentees in mentor relationships?

Dr Magid: People have to think about what they're actually looking for. A lot of my students are looking for validation. They don't know yet what they want to do, and they're worried that everyone else seems to know. In reality, I know a huge number of junior med students don't know what they're going into yet. I say, "Actually, I have person after person after person like you in my office because they don't know yet. You're going to be practicing for 40 years, maybe 50 years. Take your time figuring out what it is that really speaks to you, what you have aptitudes for, what you have attitude for, and what makes you feel good at the end of the day."

About one half of the Hopkins class now takes more than 4 years to graduate because they're not afraid to take an extra year or two for research or to go for another degree, such as a master's in public health or a PhD, or to go serve in third-world countries. They should be encouraged and supported in that. They're going to work much longer than other generations, and they'd better really like what they're doing.

Medscape: What advice would you give to other mentors about how best to care for and foster their mentee?

Dr Magid: We're all exhausted, tired, overworked. [Mentoring] makes you understand how valuable it is to you as well as to the mentee. Make sure you have time to listen and make eye contact. The older—allegedly wiser—more experienced mentor has to try and figure out what the mentee is asking or wants or needs, instead of them forcing their own values or precut advice on every situation. I've handled a ridiculous selection of wildly variable problems, and I don't always know what I'm going to say or what I'm going to advise.


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