Teach podcast

#8 A Recipe for Mentorship Success 

February 1, 2022 | By

with Drs. Feldman and Liebschutz


Expert mentors Dr. Jane Liebschutz, @liebschutz (University of Pittsburgh) and Dr. Mitch Feldman (University of California San Francisco) bring their expertise to teach us the recipe for mentorship success! We discuss the differences between mentors, sponsors, and coaches as well as tips for navigating the rocky waters of ending a mentorship relationship.  Our guests remind us that the mentor-mentee relationship is bi-directional and helps bring meaning and value to both careers.

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  • Producers, Hosts, infographics: Molly Heublein MD, Era Kryzhanovskaya MD
  • Show Notes: Carolyn Chan MD 
  • Cover Art: Molly Heublein MD, Era Kryzhanovskaya MD
  • Editors: Frances Ue MD, MPH (written materials), Clair Morgan of nodderly.com (audio)
  • Guest: Jane Liebshutz MD, MPH and Mitchell Feldman MD, MPhil

CME Partner: VCU Health CE

The Curbsiders are partnering with VCU Health Continuing Education to offer FREE continuing education credits for physicians and other healthcare professionals. Visit curbsiders.vcuhealth.org and search for this episode to claim credit. See info sheet for further directions. Note: A free VCU Health CloudCME account is required in order to seek credit.

Show Segments

  • Intro, disclaimer, guest bio
  • Guest one-liner
  • Picks of the Week
  • Case from Kashlak
  • Mentorship: First Interaction
  • Define sponsor, coach, mentor
  • Recipe for Mentorship Relationship
  • Common Pitfalls in Medicine
  • Supporting a Mentee
  • Building a Mentorship Team
  • “Breaking Up”
  • Take Home Points
  • Outro

 Mentorship 101 Pearls

  1. Mentorship is a longitudinal, reciprocal, and collaborative relationship.
  2. Triage a first meeting, ask the individual what their goals are, and clearly define needs and expectations of the mentee.
  3. After the first meeting, do an internal check: do my resources match the person’s needs?
  4. A sponsor “talks about you”, a coach “talks to you”, and a mentor “talks with you.”
  5. Recipe for mentorship success: Co-create a goal with your mentee and set-up expectations for regular check-ins. Build it on mutual respect, trust, and clear communication. 
  6. Ending a mentorship relationship: Sometimes there is a natural end to mentoring relationships. Consider a yearly check-in to have an explicit conversation about this.

Mentoring Notes 

Mentorship – The Basics

“A teacher for a day, a mentor for life”.  Mentorship is a longitudinal, reciprocal, and collaborative relationship.  (Burgess 2018)

Triage a First Meeting: Ask the individual what their  goals are. It is important to clearly define the needs and expectations of the individual, are they seeking career advice, assistance with a research project, or something else? This will help you determine the knowledge, skills, and time needed to support an individual. After this initial triage, complete an internal assessment, ask do my resources match the person’s needs?

Reciprocity: Mentees should also consider how the relationship helps the mentor – mentees can help a mentor stay on top of their field, teach a mentor new things, or extend their professional network. In addition, mentorship is often part of the advancement and promotion process. A mentorship relationship should have bidirectional benefits.   



A sponsor creates opportunities for the mentee or sponsoree, such as introducing them to individuals that may create further opportunities. This often occurs behind closed doors, in Dr Feldman’s expert opinion, where the sponsor is leadership oriented and “talks about you”. 


A coach assumes the individual has all the skills they need, and the goal of a coach is to help an individual use their current skill set to harness their individual goals. Often they assist with job performance, a coach “talks to you”.


A mentor helps guide a career and set goals. They do this in collaboration with you by  “talking with you”.   (Seehusan 2021)

Recipe for a successful Mentorship Relationship 

  • Co-create a goal with your mentee and set-up expectations on regular check-ins. 
  • The relationship must be built on mutual respect, trust, and clear communication. 
  • The mentor should be willing to share their network and resources. 
  • Consider creating an individual development plan (IDP), and integrate them into mentoring relationships. 

Common Pitfalls in Mentoring

Dr Feldman discusses a qualitative study he participated in published in Academic Medicine (Straus 2013).

  • Investment – before investing deeply, consider a small trial project to see if the relationship is a good fit.
  • Mentor does not respect the autonomy and intellectual property of the mentee.
  • Conflict of interests between mentor and mentee
  • Poor communication
  • Lack of experience, knowledge, and skills of mentor
  • Lack of commitment of mentor
  • Personality differences or a lack of chemistry
  • Mentee is worried they are taking time away from the mentor  (Burgess 2018)

Supporting a Mentee

For a mentee who may be struggling, schedule a meeting and use your active listening skills to try identify any ongoing challenges for the mentee. Approach the meeting with curiosity, and a non-judgemental attitude. Providing validation of the challenges within medicine can be helpful. Consider broadly what else can be helpful to this mentee–what is in your differential diagnosis for what’s going on? Perhaps the mentee now needs a coach to help them reframe, retool, reconsider goals, and achieve their maximal potential. 

Remember to build your own mentoring team

Consider a wide variety of mentors to meet your individual needs (e.g. clinical mentors, research mentors, etc).  (Khatchikian 2021)

How to “break-up” a Mentee-Mentor Relationship

As a mentor, be clear about your availability, expectations in the relationship, and how it may shift over time.  With zoom times, there has been more distance mentoring to continue the mentorship. Avoid “ghosting” in a mentorship relationship. Sometimes there is a natural end to mentoring relationships. Rather than having a drift occur, consider instituting a yearly check-in and feedback dialogue to have an explicit conversation about how the mentorship is going for both parties. Discuss shifting the relationship, and help support a mentee in finding a new mentor to fill any gaps the mentee needs.

How to continue to hone your Mentor skills:

To help with self-improvement in the mentorship space, ensure you are attending and looking out for professional development experiences/opportunities. Going to conferences with a focus on mentorship skill development with time for you to continue to reflect on your mentoring abilities; it’s not a one and done thing! Getting feedback from mentees is also part of the mentor growth process. Look for mentorship development opportunities available at your local institution or national society programs like SGIM

Take Home Points

  • Be up front in negotiating the mentor-mentee relationship, set times for check-ins, and be specific on expectations in communication.
  • Alignment is critical to a mentorship relationship success.
  • Pay attention to implicit bias and stereotype threat in mentoring; we need faculty mentors to improve their skills in mentoring diverse trainees.
  • Mentors help mentees identify their professional and personal career “sweet spot”, their reason for being.

  1. Apeirogon: A novel by Colum McCann
  2. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
  3. The Codebreakers by Walter Issacson 
  4. How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman
  5. The Peloton App
  6. The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukerjee
  7. Mytopcare.org  
  8. Behavioral Medicine and Guide for Clinical Practice by Dr. Feldman


Listeners will become familiar with the most current definitions of mentor, sponsor, coach, and how to embody each of these roles.

Learning objectives

After listening to this episode listeners will…  

  1. Distinguish the roles of a mentor, sponsor, and coach.
  2. Describe the anatomy of an effective mentoring encounter.
  3. Recognize aspects of effective mentorship of health professionals at different stages.


Dr. Liebshutz and Dr. Feldman report no relevant financial disclosures. The Curbsiders report no relevant financial disclosures. 


Liebschutz J, Feldman M, Heublein M, Kryzhanovskaya E. Chan. C “#8 Mentorship 101: How to Live and Teach it”. The Curbsiders Internal Medicine Podcast. http://thecurbsiders.com/teach February 2, 2022

CME Partner


The Curbsiders are partnering with VCU Health Continuing Education to offer FREE continuing education credits for physicians and other healthcare professionals. Visit curbsiders.vcuhealth.org and search for this episode to claim credit.

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