Dr. Dollinger: The Value of Mentors

A little while ago, I decided to invite a small group of women from the hospital to my home for an afternoon. This small group of bright young women included students, residents, and three or four attending physicians. I wanted to provide a more casual setting where we could talk about medical articles, case studies, etc. However, it soon became apparent to me that this group needed something more.

You see, back when I was in medical school, even though it was increasingly common for more women to break into the medical field, I still felt like an outsider, with few mentors, and the competitive nature of it all sometimes made me miserable. Today, there have been many breakthroughs in terms of the glass ceiling, with 50 – 60% of the medical workforce being women; however, looking at this wonderful group of young women in my home, I could tell that there was still a need for support and mentorships.

Having been inspired by TEDxChemungRiver and having talked with my daughter, who is also very bright and creative, I invited the same group of students, residents, and doctors to my home again, but this time, instead of articles or case studies, I divided them into smaller groups and gave them construction paper, rubber bands, and pipe cleaners. The instructions were to take 20 minutes to make something. Anything. At first, there was some hesitancy, but when I entered the room 20 minutes later, the energy had completely changed, and on the table I found a pig and piglets, a small handbag, and a rescue helicopter.

With the group warmed up and more open, I then struck up a conversation by starting a sentence and having them finish it in their own words. For example: “What concerns me most is ______.” This is when I saw magic happen. One young woman was concerned about her work/life balance. Another woman in the group had wonderful suggestions to offer based on what worked for her. Someone wondered if it would be possible to work as an ER doctor and have a family at the same time. Someone else in the group talked about her own experience doing just that.

I was watching a support system unfold before me. The positivity in the room was boosting confidence all around, which may never have happened with their male peers present. This is not to say that all men in the medical field are squashing the confidence of their female peers, but it would be foolish to say that there aren’t any differences between the two groups.

From this experience, it has become my mission to create a mentoring group for women in the medical field. It is so important for our young women to know and trust that they are equals in this system and that they can have the support and confidence that they deserve to help them go on to make a greater positive impact in our community.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Beth Dollinger, click here to find her contact information listed in our provider directory.

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