Most GI physicians will tell you that we didn’t get where we are without help along the way. Each of us can point to one – or in most cases, several – specific mentors who provided invaluable guidance when we were in medical school, fellowship, and starting our careers. This is true for gastroenterologists across the spectrum, whether they chose careers in private practice, academic medicine, or within a hospital system.
The leadership at Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates, where I practice, has always recognized the importance of mentorship and its role in developing fulfilling careers for its physicians and a healthy practice culture in which people feel valued and supported. But only recently have we begun to create a formalized program to ensure that everyone has access to mentors.
When I started my career, formalized programs for mentorship did not exist. While I reached out to various doctors in my office and the senior partners throughout the practice, not everyone is comfortable proactively reaching out to ask practice leadership for help and guidance. And as independent GI practices continue to get bigger, there may not be as many opportunities to interact with senior leadership or executives, which means new associates could be left to “cold call” potential mentors by phone or email.
New associates face many challenges
When I was an associate, the path to partnership looked much different than it does in our practice now, and it definitely varies from practice to practice. In our practice, physicians remain associates for 2-3 years before they have the option to become a partner. As they work diligently to provide the best care to patients, new associates face many challenges, like learning how to build a practice and interact with referring physicians, understanding the process to become a partner, and figuring out how to juggle other commitments, such as the balance between work and home life.
Then there are things like buying a home, getting life and disability insurance, and understanding the financial planning aspects of being a business owner. For those whose group model requires buying into the practice to become a partner, medical school doesn’t teach you how to analyze the return on an investment. Providing access to people who have this experience through a mentorship program can help associates be more prepared to become partners, and hopefully be happier and more successful while doing so.