The road to becoming a skilled facial plastic surgeon is long. Beyond successfully graduating from medical school, a facial plastic surgeon needs to complete an additional five years of surgical training, before he or she can become board certified. Extensive training is a must to make sure a surgeon develops the skills he or she needs to perform complicated procedures such as rhinoplasty or hair restoration.
Having a mentor doesn’t make the training process to become a plastic surgeon any easier, but it does give an aspiring surgeon a much-needed system of support. A more experienced and respected surgical mentor can help open doors for an aspiring surgeon.
What a Mentor Is
A mentor goes beyond simply advising another person. Mentors, according to a joint committee of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine can be defined as people “who take a special interest in helping another person develop into a successful professional.” Another way to define a mentor is a person in a senior position who develops a professional and personal relationship with a doctor in training. A mentor wants to see his or her protégé succeed and will take the time to ensure that the protege does so.
One benefit of having a mentor who is invested in you and who wants you to succeed in your career is that the mentor will typically open his or her network up to you. A mentor can introduce an aspiring plastic surgeon to others in the field or to surgeons in top positions at hospitals or medical schools or to those in private practice. In many ways, the responsibility of a mentor is to open doors for the mentee.
Another reason why every aspiring plastic surgeon should consider a mentor is that the mentor can provide practical advice. A mentor can help translate what’s previously just been theory into action. Depending on where the doctor is in his or her training, a mentor can help guide the way through the application process for residency programs or can help the aspiring surgeon perform his or her first few procedures.
Encouragement and Research
A mentor can also encourage a plastic surgeon to do more research. A study, examining the influence of mentors on the research performed by a doctor, looked at research development of 215 fellows in primary care. Out of the fellows who received National Research Service Awards between 1988 and 1997, 73 percent had a mentor.
The study found that the fellows who had a mentor were more likely to conduct research, publish papers and apply for grants. In a field where it is becoming hard to get funding for research without having someone to back up a doctor’s work, having a mentor has become critically important for ongoing investigations in the medical field.
Dr. Jeffrey Epstein has demonstrated the importance of having a mentor in his own practices. He was mentored by two highly renowned surgeons, Dr. Sheldon Kabaker of Oakland, CA, and Dr. Robert Simons of North Miami Beach. Dr. Simons is a respected facial plastic surgeon who specializes in rhinoplasty while Dr. Kabaker is a respected hair restoration specialist.
Together with Dr. Kabaker, Dr. Epstein has published a number of research monographs on hair restoration techniques. He’s also published papers on rhinoplasty with Dr. Simons.
Benefits to Mentor and Patients
The mentor also benefits from the mentor-mentee relationship, as do the patients. In “Surgical Mentoring: Building Tomorrow’s Leaders,” the authors argue that mentoring relationships provide the greatest benefits to patients. The longer a surgeon is in practice, the more clinical experience he or she will have. Surgeons who are encouraged to be mentors are likely to stay in practice longer, providing patients with a higher standard of care. The surgeons are able to transfer the knowledge they’ve gained over many years in practice to their mentees.
For mentors, the experience of mentoring can be very fulfilling. Many mentors were once mentees themselves and find that being able to pass on what they’ve learned helps them pay it forward.
Dr. Jeffrey Epstein, a top hair restoration surgeon and facial plastic surgeon with practices in Miami and New York City, has experienced the benefit of a mentor firsthand. He encourages experienced surgeons to consider mentoring aspiring doctors and aspiring doctors to seek out a mentor to help show them the ropes.