Help a Sub-I, Pay it Forward

by Justin Perez, MD

Sub-I season is here again. It wasn’t long ago that we were all sub-interns- racing around the halls of a totally unfamiliar hospital, sweating our you-know-whats off in what seemed like a disproportionate amount of effort to find that last Xeroform for rounds. Those few days to “impress” a new team can be nerve wracking for med students, and it’s easy to forget what it was like when we were in their shoes.

We recently had a visit from Dr. Michael Bentz from the University of Wisconsin, and he gave a nice talk on what it means to be a strong mentor in academic surgery. His talk struck a chord among us— How good of a mentor was I being? Did I “celebrate the achievements”of my mentees? “Communicate optimism?” Empathetically “accept the mentee as a beginner?” Ask yourself the same. You may not like the answer…

Sure, our days can be hectic. As a new R2, there are mornings when I‘m a bit preoccupied with getting patients through pre-op or dealing with OR delays, H&Ps, etc. But all it takes is 5 minutes to print a relevant article for your med student. Grab a piece of scrap paper for a quick anatomy review. Remind them that their hard work and pre-rounding at 4:30AM is recognized. Your med students will surely appreciate it (and often, work harder in response). It’ll do wonders for your team’s vibe as well. Of course as residents our time is limited, but we can make it count, so quit making excuses and get involved!

Don’t forget that maintaining mentor-mentee relationships is just as important as establishing them. Be mindful about checking in with the sub-I’s you’ve met this season. Even if it’s just a text! Some calming words of wisdom will serve your med students well this Fall/Winter when pre-match anxiety starts to kick in. Another good checkpoint is probably the end of February around the time that rank lists are due. Emotions will be running high and their heads uh-reelin’ with questions — and they might not necessarily be too forthcoming about it.

Remember those who mentored you and helped you to get here? Friendly reminder: time to pay it forward.

A special thanks goes out to Dr. Bentz for his visiting professorship at UTSW Department of Plastic Surgery (July 13-14th, 2015) and his continued efforts to keep mentorship in surgery alive and well.

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