Understand the key benefits, explore mentorship programs for students and professionals, and learn how to build strong mentee-mentor relationships.
Dr. Michael Gisondi
Dr. Michael Gisondi is the inaugural Vice Chair of Education in the Department of Emergency Medicine, as well as the Principal and Founder of the Precision Education and Assessment Research Lab (The PEARL) at Stanford University. He oversees all emergency medicine training for students, residents and fellows in the department and teaches several courses in both the School of Medicine and undergraduate programs. Dr. Gisondi has been a mentor to dozens of trainees and junior faculty and is an advisor to the Stanford LGBTQ-Meds student affinity organization.
Most of us have benefitted from having a mentor at some point in our lives, even if we don’t realize it. Maybe it was an older sibling watching you after school and helping with math homework. Perhaps a college coach making sure you stayed an extra year to complete your degree. Or one of countless other personal stories of a role model helping us grow. Mentorship, however formal, builds confidence and character, challenges our comfort zones, and creates lasting connections. And while mentorship is valuable in all walks of life, it’s particularly beneficial in the healthcare and medical professions due to their demanding academics, training, and job responsibilities. These collaborative relationships between experienced practitioners, early professionals, and students play a key role in the personal and professional development for everyone involved – and help improve the overall quality of healthcare delivery.
If you’re ready to take the first step on your mentorship path, this guide is a great starting point. You’ll find a wide range of mentorship programs available for healthcare students and professionals, including mentorship programs for minority groups. You’ll also learn more about the benefits of mentorship, how to be a successful mentee or mentor, and get advice and insights directly from our mentorship expert, Dr. Michael Gisondi.
Mentorship in healthcare is critically important. Trainees are challenged by the move from structured, classroom-based learning to unstructured, clinical learning environments. Mentors acculturize trainees to medicine, drive their professional identity formation and role model healthy patient-provider relationships.
Benefits of Mentorship in Healthcare
Good mentorship benefits not only healthcare students and early professionals as mentees but also the mentors and healthcare institutions that support them. Furthermore, mentorships enhance the medical and health professions overall by facilitating the process of sharing knowledge between disciplines and generations, and by providing guidance and increasing the success of diverse and underrepresented minorities in medicine.
Introduces new career and learning paths. Mentorship gives students and early professionals personal insights and an early preview into career and education paths they may be curious about.
Develops leadership and communication skills. As mentors guide and support those with less experience, they’re forced to reframe their knowledge and hone their leadership skills.
Increases the pool of role models for future professionals. Mentees who experience valuable mentorships are often more willing to become mentors themselves. This is particularly important for underrepresented populations in healthcare and medicine.
Diversifies workplaces. When minority students see healthcare professionals similar to themselves, it helps encourage them to pursue medical careers, too. This leads to more professionals from underrepresented backgrounds and creates better clinical environments for minority patients.
Builds strong connections. Both mentees and mentors benefit from the relationships and professional connections mentorship can bring. Experienced professionals gain new perspectives and students gain trusted confidants and role models.
Increases confidence. Whether they’ve just entered a health program or are starting a new career, students and professionals can feel a lot of uncertainty in the medical and healthcare fields. Having a mentor for support can help them navigate their career paths and make them feel more comfortable and confident.
Clarifies professional goals and interests. Sometimes school and the time shortly after can feel frantic and unguided. Mentors can help students and graduates figure out what they want to do and make attainable plans to reach goals.
Provides personal fulfillment. Both mentors and mentees often find mentorships to be gratifying. Mentorships can lead to long-term bonds and trusting collaborative relationships. Some even become multigenerational as mentees become mentors themselves and include their mentors in that relationship.
Mentorship Program List for Students & Healthcare Professionals
Formal mentorship programs are offered across nearly every healthcare field and experience level, from as early as high school to as late as residency and beyond. Mentors act as role models and share their experiences and insights with mentees. They not only help mentees gain a better understanding of the field but help them feel welcome in it, too. Learn more about formal mentorship programs designed for your professional background or grade level, and explore standout examples in the sections below.
For High School Students Interested in a Healthcare Career
High school students can find many mentorship opportunities sponsored by colleges in their area. These opportunities are geared toward students who have an interest in healthcare careers and often involve college prep and subject-specific classes. We’ve listed a few mentorship programs from across the country below, but students should check with their school counselor to see if there are any opportunities near them.
High school students can participate in this year-long mentorship program that introduces them to nursing and other in-demand healthcare professions. Students learn about healthcare, gain CPR certification, complete 60 hours of job shadowing and get individual mentoring. The program also includes college preparation classes.
Location: Bolivar, Sunflower, Coahoma, Tallahatchie and Quitman Counties, MS
This comprehensive program is open to high school students interested in medical careers. Students receive long-term career and college mentorship from field professionals, and they can also participate in paid hospital and lab internships during the summer.
The City College of New York offers a two-year mentorship program for incoming high school juniors interested in health careers. Mentees explore a range of health careers during summer sessions, and during the school year, they receive college success and preparation guidance from their mentors.
High school students from Sayre and West Philadelphia High Schools are paired with Penn undergraduate mentors. Undergraduate mentors also receive mentorship from graduate medical students. They collaborate to introduce minority students to an array of medical careers and provide them with focused courses in health and medicine.
Location: Philadelphia, PA
For Pre-Health and Pre-Med College Students
College students in pre-med and pre-health programs may find that looking to their school’s health and medical departments is the easiest way to get involved in mentorships. In these mentorships, students are often paired with graduate medical students or faculty, who offer both academic and career guidance.
The University of Miami’s HPM Program is a four-year mentorship and enhanced academic program designed to prepare students to be competitive medical school applicants. Multigenerational mentoring gives students guidance from faculty, medical school students and advanced undergraduates. Students must apply in conjunction with their Common Application.
In this mentorship, Cornell students who are considering healthcare careers spend a day shadowing healthcare professionals in Tompkins County and are paired with a mentor. This program encourages students to find a mentor whose field is completely different from the fields they may be considering.
Arizona State offers two mentorship opportunities for pre-health students. One pairs students with working healthcare professionals and the other matches them with medical and health students from a range of medical schools. Students receive academic credit for their mentorships.
Tarleton pre-health students are paired with alumni and community members in various health professions for a mentorship lasting at least 6-11 months. Students are matched based on the field they’re pursuing so they can learn more about career specifics and make professional connections.
Hunter College has a unique mentorship program that connects pre-health students. Upper-class pre-health students engage in a one-to-one mentorship with new pre-health undergraduates who may want help or guidance through the program. Mentees gain insights from successful students who have recently been in the same position.
Pre-med and post-bac students who are working toward medical school and are interested in physician careers are paired with current medical students. Mentors and mentees meet up for one-on-one conversations in person or virtually as often as they like, and they also participate in group Coffee Talks with other mentors and mentees.
Location: Detroit, MI
For Current Nursing, Healthcare and Medical Students
Like pre-med and pre-health students, current nursing, healthcare, and medical students may find it easiest to source mentorship opportunities directly from their schools. Many offer peer mentoring or partnerships with professionals in the community to help students navigate both academic and professional life.
Nursing School Mentorship Programs
This is a small sampling of mentorship opportunities for current nursing students. Students interested in mentorship programs should contact their school’s student services or nursing department to see what opportunities are available either at school or within the community.
The University of Arizona offers a mentorship program to all BSN students. At the earliest, students can apply during their first year to be mentors for the following year. Any student can apply to be a mentee. Interested students should contact the College of Nursing Academic Success Coach.
Penn State nursing students work with graduates from the Penn State College of Nursing or nursing professionals who graduated from Penn State to set goals, build relationships and engage in personal and professional growth. All nursing students may apply, but priority is given to juniors and seniors. Pairs meet virtually and in-person.
The Rutgers School of Nursing peer mentor program is different in that every new student gets assigned to a mentor when they enter the nursing school. There are only five mentors per campus, so mentorship happens in groups. Mentorship is largely focused on building a strong community within the nursing school.
Level 4 nursing students are eligible to participate in the Rebel Nurse Mentoring program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Mentees are paired with UNLV School of Nursing alumni and are expected to maintain the mentorship until graduation. Pairs must meet once in person and can communicate however they wish after that.
Washburn University offers a peer mentoring program for its nursing students. Peer mentors are advanced students who can act as role models and provide guidance to new nursing students. Mentees benefit from the camaraderie and guidance of students who may have had the same questions and uncertainties just a few years earlier.
University of Utah’s mentorship program aims to help current nursing students transition into the workforce by matching them with experienced licensed nurses in their specialty of interest. Mentorships run from September to May each year and include networking events.
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Med School Mentorship Programs
From one-on-one mentorships with experienced physicians or faculty members to mentorships between students and residents, there are plenty of opportunities to be mentored in med school. Med students can most often find mentorships directly through their school, but some professional associations also help connect mentees to mentors.
Through the E4C program, each incoming School of Medicine student is matched with an E4C faculty member, who serves as educator, mentor and colleague. The goal of this mentorship is to build compassionate physicians through training in Compassion, Advocacy, Responsibility and Empathy (CARE).
AMSA’s mentorship connects students with physicians for one-on-one mentorships. These mentorships are completely virtual and can also include group discussions. The mentorship program is limited to AMSA members.
EMRA matches emergency medicine students with resident mentors with the idea that, because residents may be closer in age to the med students and have recently gone through med school and the residency application process, mentees can gain unique insights and supportive guidance. Mentors and mentees must be EMRA members.
The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine offers multiple mentorship programs that benefit med students. The MS2-MS1 Academic Societies Peer Mentorship Program allows first-year students to connect with second-year peer mentors, and the Academic Societies Trainer Mentorship Program helps smooth the transition between preclinical and clinical years.
Family medicine students at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health can request a faculty member to support them through their time in med school and help them with residency and career guidance. Students can read through mentor bios and apply for mentorship.
Through a partnership with Northwest Permanente, first-year OHSU medical students who are part of underrepresented minority groups can participate in a 10-month mentorship with experienced OHSU physicians. Mentees must be members of a SOM diversity student interest group.
Location: Portland, OR
For Early Professionals in Healthcare
Employers and professional associations may offer or facilitate mentorship opportunities for new health and medical professionals. School-affiliated mentorships aimed at residents and alumni are also commonly available, so be sure to ask your school about potential opportunities. Mentorships for early professionals are typically designed to help recent graduates transition into professional settings and give seasoned professionals a chance to develop leadership skills and help build their workplace.
Stanford Health Care’s mentorship program aims to retain new nurses, help them put their education into practice and facilitate a faster understanding of facility culture. Seasoned nurses work with Nurse Residents, new Stanford Health Care staff nurses and nurses moving to a new position within SHC.
Internal medicine residents and the University of Washington can participate in both the faculty mentorship program, which provides career guidance, and the peer mentorship program, which pairs new residents with experienced residents to help them get accustomed to residency and life in Seattle.
Harvard Medical School’s ophthalmology mentorship program aims to prepare junior faculty for career advancement. Mentees can participate in clinical and research mentorships with seasoned faculty who hold a range of positions within the department.
UIC’s nursing mentorship program connects mid- and late-career alumni with early-career alumni to aid both in their professional development. Mentees can get advice on navigating the profession, building networks and advancing their careers.
Med students, Junior Fellows and new physicians can take advantage of ACOG’s mentorship matching program. Those early in their careers are paired with experienced OB-GYNs, with whom they participate in formal mentorship practices as well as informal professional development and networking activities.
Spotlight on Healthcare Mentorship Programs for Minority Groups
Many schools and organizations recognize the importance of offering mentorships to students and early professionals belonging to underrepresented in medicine (URM) groups. The American Association of Medical Colleges defines URM groups as “those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population.”
For minority students, in particular, having role models with similar backgrounds in White-dominated fields like medicine and healthcare makes those careers more attainable. Many mentorship programs for URM students also incorporate college success courses, internships and scholarship opportunities to provide additional support.
These types of mentorships help increase diversity in the healthcare field, which can lead to more effective patient care for diverse populations and increase retention of multiethnic, multicultural students and employees in the future.
First-generation students and those from groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine face significant challenges to careers in healthcare. Financial hardships, cultural differences and threats to belongingness all impact learning. Mentors guide students to become effective learners – and better learning results in better patient care.
Healthcare Mentorships for Minority and Underrepresented in Medicine (URM) Students & Professionals
There are many mentorship programs geared toward prospective healthcare and medical mentees who belong to racial and ethnic groups that are underrepresented in medicine relative to their presence in the general population. We’ve spotlighted a handful of standout programs below.
This year-long mentorship program supports minority high school seniors interested in pursuing healthcare careers. Students engage in job shadows, professional development workshops, and meetings with their mentors. Mentors are graduate students from URM backgrounds.
Illinois students who are already in medical school can participate in the University of Illinois COM-UHP mentorships. These mentorships are available at all four College of Medicine locations. The Urban Health Program also has a variety of other college success and support programming for students.
Location: Chicago, Rockwood, Urbana-Champaign and Peoria, IL
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO) work together to provide one-on-one mentorships and networking opportunities to underrepresented students pursuing ophthalmology residencies.
Med students and residents from underrepresented groups who are interested in oncology careers can request a mentor through ASCO. Prospective physicians can build relationships with established oncology professionals and learn about career opportunities.
At any point in their med school careers, underrepresented in medicine students can apply for a mentorship through the American Academy of Dermatology, but the organization recommends students wait until their third or fourth year when they know for sure they want to pursue dermatology. The mentorship is one month long and includes 160 hours of full-time work experience and a grant for living and travel expenses.
Regional medical associations and health centers like this one can be great resources for formal mentorship programs. The Medical Minority Mentoring Program is aimed at high school seniors in North Carolina who are interested in careers as physicians, pharmacists, dentists, physical therapists or physician assistants.
Location: Asheville, NC
Healthcare Mentorships for Hispanic/Latinx Students & Professionals
Hispanic and Latinx students and professionals can apply to any of the mentorship programs above, but there are also some mentorship opportunities specifically for Hispanic and Latinx populations. Here are some of the top programs currently available.
The National Association of Hispanic Healthcare Executives offers a mentorship program for undergraduate and graduate students interested in healthcare leadership careers. Mentees work with experienced healthcare leaders, gain professional skills and attend industry workshops and events.
This mentorship program pairs Latinx physicians with medical students to provide career guidance and professional support. Students should check with their school and regional LMSA chapters for similar mentorship programs in their area.
The NBNA Collaborative Mentorship Program operates under the belief that all nurses can benefit from mentorship and is available to nurses at any point in their careers, including students. There are three levels to mentorship depending on the mentee’s current position and career aspirations.
Black Men in White Coats is an organization that works to increase the number of Black men in medicine. To that end, they facilitate mentorships between young Black men interested in healthcare and established professionals and medical students.
Mentorships for Gender Minorities in the Health & Medical Field
Mentorships are also available to provide support and guidance to LGBTQ students and professionals as well as those who are gender minorities in their fields.
The American Medical Women’s Association emphasizes support, challenge and future goals in their mentorship program. For women in medical fields, career advancement may not be straightforward, but guidance from experienced women professionals can help.
UCSF students in the Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Nursing, Physical Therapy, and the Graduate Division can apply for mentorships with faculty, staff and trainee mentors who are also members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Early career women surgeons can connect with and learn from experienced women in surgery through this ACS mentorship program. The program is limited to 25 mentor-mentee pairs who are ACS Fellows, Assistant Fellows or are in the process of applying for Fellowship.
This professional network of women in healthcare offers a collaborative mentorship program to help advance healthcare careers for women and the field as a whole. Mentors and mentees set goals, develop skills and build relationships.
While many medical fields are male-dominated, there is a notable lack of men in nursing careers. This mentorship program offers peer connection and guidance to male nurses and aims to increase the number to men in nursing positions through support and exposure.
Location: New York, NY
Finding a Healthcare Career Mentor on Your Own
Students and early professionals don’t have to go through formal programs to take advantage of mentorships. Sometimes finding a professional or peer mentor you trust and respect on your own can be more beneficial. Finding the right mentor on your own takes work, but these tips can help.
Think about who you admire
Mentors should be role models, so seek out a professor whose research interests, a professional you respect who holds a position you’d like to pursue, or a peer you’d like to model your career or studies after.
Consider your identity
If you are part of an underrepresented group, a mentor with a similar background can provide unique insights.
Establish a relationship
Broaching the subject of mentorship can be difficult. Ask a specific question and follow up by asking if they wouldn’t mind meeting up for coffee.
Be specific about goals and parameters
Mentorships should have some structure. Mentors help mentees meet certain goals, and mentees should be upfront about those goals and what they hope to get from the mentorship.
Look outside your field
Sometimes working with a mentor who’s in a different field but is deeply invested in your growth is better than a halfhearted mentorship with someone who holds a desirable position.
Ask for recommendations
Let coworkers, professors, student success advisors, and peers know you’re looking for a mentor. They may have great suggestions.
Make sure it’s a fit
It’s hard to know if a mentorship is going to work out but do some research before asking. Consider if they have time to mentor you and if your goals align with their expertise.
Look for more than one
Mentors can provide guidance in different aspects of your career and education. You may want to have both a clinical and a research mentor, for instance, or both an academic and a professional mentor.
How to Become a Successful Professional or Peer Mentor
For many, helping new healthcare students and professionals through mentorship is personally fulfilling. Mentoring is also a great opportunity to enhance leadership skills, grow and diversify the field, boost your reputation and learn by teaching as well as by listening to fresh perspectives. Following these steps can help you become a successful mentor.
Great mentors make themselves regularly available to their mentees… and they are in it for the long haul. Mentor relationships often extend well beyond a student’s training period. The best mentors set challenging yet attainable goals for their students, provide support as needed, and hold trainees accountable.
Whether you’re a student or a professional, make sure you have enough experience relative to your mentee to offer a valuable and meaningful mentorship. Formal mentorship programs often have explicit experience requirements, so read carefully.
Assess your schedule.
Realistically, do you have time to invest in a mentee? Depending on the nature of the mentorship, a mentee may not be feasible. On the other hand, you may want to mentor more than one person. How many mentees you want to have will largely depend on the mentorships themselves. Collaborative research mentorships, for instance, may require a bigger time commitment than general academic or career mentorship.
Research mentee pools.
Once you decide you want to be a mentor, you have to find potential mentees. If you know other people who have mentored, ask for their recommendations. Research schools and organizations that have mentorship programs and find out if their program values align with your professional ones. Make sure you understand their expectations of mentors and mentees, too.
Express interest and submit an application.
If you find a formal program that seems like a good fit, reach out or submit an application if they are available. Alternatively, you may already know someone you would like to mentor. Reach out and ask them if they’d be interested in establishing a mentorship.
Have an interview.
Formal mentorship programs often make this a requirement, but it’s just as important if you already know your mentee. Make sure you know your mentee’s goals and expectations and that you can help them get there. Also, make sure that you are comfortable supporting their goals.
Set expectations, boundaries and goals.
To be a mentor, you and your mentee need to collaborate on goals and establish expectations of the mentorship. Discuss what you each home to get from it and make sure that boundaries, privacy and other points of professionalism are covered.
Connect with your mentee.
Mentorships aren’t just disseminating information to a less experienced person. They are personal and require growth and flexibility from both parties. Getting invested in your mentee is an essential step in truly becoming a mentor.
Keep developing your mentorship skills.
Being a mentor isn’t easy, and you’re bound to make mistakes when you first start. Reach out to other mentors for advice and consider joining a formal mentorship development program.
Mentorships require effort from both mentors and mentees. As with most educational and career endeavors, more input yields greater results. These tips can help mentors and mentees have a fulfilling and worthwhile mentorship experience.
Be sincere. Being genuinely interested in your mentee’s growth will make the mentorship more fulfilling for everyone. If you don’t care, don’t do it.
Make sure you have time. Being a mentor may sound appealing, but if you don’t have time, it won’t be a good arrangement for either party.
Be engaged and engaging. Pay attention to your mentee and offer different modes of growth you notice might be helpful, like connecting with a certain peer or shadowing you at work.
Listen and empathize. Your mentee is learning and may be sometimes stressed, disappointed or overwhelmed. Being attuned to them can deepen your relationship and make for a more effective mentorship.
Hand over the reins. You might want to give your mentee all the answers, but letting them figure things out on their own and being there as a support can be more beneficial.
Be constructive. There will be times when you need to critique, but being tactful and providing guidance for growth is key.
Set Goals. Entering a mentorship with clear goals that you communicate with your mentor will provide a strong framework for the relationship.
Do the legwork. Your mentor can support you as you work toward goals, but you must be proactive in your growth. Don’t expect them to do the work for you.
Meet regularly. Establish right away when you will meet with your mentor and how often, and stick to that commitment.
Share your victories. Mentorships are collaborative. If you’ve met a goal or made a breakthrough, tell your mentor and show gratitude.
Prepare for meetings. Know what you’d like to discuss with your mentor before you meet up. Meetings may be infrequent, so you won’t want to waste your time or theirs with idle conversation.
Provide feedback. Let your mentor know what’s going well and what isn’t working. Honest communication makes for more effective mentorships.
Timon Kaple, Ph.D., is a full-time writer and researcher. His work focuses on sociolinguistics, small-group folklore, the anthropology of sound, higher education, and student support services. He has experience as an ethnographer and enjoys conducting fieldwork and archival research.