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Mentoring: A Mutually Beneficial Relationship

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As dental students, we all at some point get lost in the world of lectures and grades, living with our nose buried in science books, filling our calendar with studying, and only surviving from one exam to the next.  Sometimes we forget why we are in school and lose sight of the whole reason for working so hard.  Mentor relationships refresh our passion for dentistry by showing us that there is, in fact, light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel.  Working with a dentist mentor from the local community helps guide and motivate mentees in their journey into dentistry by allowing them to explore career possibilities (including potential specialties), and exposing them to the field of organized dentistry.  Becka Azeff, a third year student at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry stated, “Through the LASDA (Louisville American Student Dental Association) mentor program, I didn’t gain one mentor, but actually four.  My mentor introduced me to other dentists, opening up opportunities to get insight from multiple specialties.”  Through these programs, students receive guidance, counsel, and knowledge.  Austin Carey, a fourth year at Louisville, always loves getting words of wisdom from his mentor including this quote, “There's a reason why they call it the practice of dentistry, nothing is perfect.”  Students learn about aspects of dentistry that are not necessarily taught thoroughly in dental school, including business management, relationships with employees, and debt payments.  Mentees are challenged as they observe dental offices behind-the-scenes and learn from real life scenarios, translating to future clinical success.


One of the most important aspects of the field of dentistry is lifelong learning.  Mentor programs help facilitate this through the reciprocal sharing of knowledge, wisdom, and expertise.  Not only is the student gaining valuable experiences and learning about the field, but the dentist also learns by gaining fresh, youthful, and technology-driven perspectives.  Dr. Gay Baughman, dentist and professor at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry stresses the importance of mentoring as it allows us to “share our talents and gifts.”  She states, “I grow as much or more than the person I am mentoring.”  Students and dentists are able to bounce ideas off each other and problem solve as a team through their different opinions and views on cases.  Dr. Keith Ray, a pediatric dentist in Louisville, Kentucky, reflected on his mentoring experiences saying, “Often we forget; we're ‘living the dream’. The benefit as a mentor is like receiving a shot of adrenaline.”  Additionally, many dentists are looking for partnerships or possibly dentists interested in taking over their practice when they get ready to retire-- this relationship has the potential to accomplish this.  Lastly, it allows mentors to give back to the profession and pass on their legacy, so to say. 

 

Mentor relationships may be created by dental schools or professional organizations, or may even be the result of an unintentional connection or a relationship that develops out of shared interests.  Whatever the method, through this relationship both parties expand their network tremendously, creating connections with many other members of the dental community, including students, dentists, dental assistants, lab technicians, suppliers, etc.  Dr. Amy Farnsworth, an orthodontist in Louisville, stated from her experiences with mentor programs as both the mentee and mentor that she believes the “most critical aspect of a successful mentor/mentee relationship is that it be mutually desirable and beneficial to both parties.”  Overall, mentor programs build lasting relationships among future colleagues, and enhance success in both individuals through shared wisdom, education, and experiences.  Mentors are more than role models to their mentees—they are friends, counselors, and future colleagues. The integration of the dentists of tomorrow with the dental community increases the strength of organized dentistry and all of our future success.