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Finding A Mentor As A Female Physician

Finding a mentor can be SO challenging! I struggled during medical school to identify a key mentor in my area of interest, specifically analyzing emotionality and conversations within pediatric oncology and palliative care community.

Thankfully, as a member of the American Medical Women’s Association, I was able to connect with other female physicians and ask for advice, whether it was personal or academic. Despite these wonderful women, I still felt I was missing a person in the immediate area with whom I could consult with and discuss career moves, planning, and potential research areas. I essentially never began research during medical school because of my absence of a good mentor and the fact that I wasn’t finding projects that I was genuinely interested in.

This definitely changed during one of my away rotations at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH). I was lucky enough to rotate for two weeks with an incredible attending on the solid tumor service. She exposed me to an entirely different world of research that I didn’t even know existed: qualitative analysis. I was thrilled and felt excitement overcome me as I learned about her past projects and existing projects. Her work covered communication between patients with cancer and their parents and providers. I loved her work and I knew immediately that I wanted to add to this type of work.

After entering residency, I finally had direction with where I wanted to take my research thanks to the guidance provided by the BCH attending. I was able to express the type of project I wanted to become involved in. Luckily, my portfolio physician advisor steered me in the right direction toward two mentors, who have given me fantastic support and academic opportunities. These two women, are the perfect combination of mentors and they both serve different needs for me as a mentee.

One has helped further my academic progress and has opened multiple doors for me as I have continued to create my own research projects and add to some of hers. She has coached me as a mentee and taught me how to critically think about data and put together papers for publishing. She has nourished my ideas and combined them with her own interests so that our relationship builds mutual success.

The other has similarly helped in an academic sense, but I would argue that she has helped in a very personal way, as well. Who do you talk to about topics outside of the hospital that may affect your career decisions? Not only do you need a career mentor, but I would argue that you need a life mentor, too, and that is what she is to me. I spoke to her at length about my goals as a fellow, my fears as a young single female, and my hopes for my own personal growth. She guided me to take a direction that I may not have without her encouragement.

Together, these three women have been ultimate mentors to me. Even when I was interviewing at BCH’s program for fellowship, the first attending I mentioned here consulted with me as a mentor. She placed herself back into the mentor role that she had filled several years ago, and offered transparency and guidance about what she thought was best given my interests. She assured me about my own success, because sometimes you need a mentor to give your confidence a little boost.

I hope to keep in touch with all three of these fabulous women and although it may have taken me a little bit longer to find them in comparison to the average medical student or resident, I’m grateful to have met each of them. I cannot express how truly thankful I am for their guidance, encouragement, and overall support.

About the author:

Dr. Cherilyn Cecchini is a third year resident currently specializing in general pediatrics. Ambitious and insightful, she also has plans to sub-specialize in hematology/oncology and palliative care with a specific focus on osteosarcoma in the adolescent and young adult population. When she's not working Doctor Cher loves to socialize, exercise, and relax! Follow Doctor Cher on Instagram.