Who Is in Your Corner?

  • by Clayton Sorrells
  • Oct 24, 2022
When I first began college, I remember talking to a nursing professor about the importance of finding a mentor. Then I started working as a nurse, and the older nurses talked about how they had mentors and learned from them. After that, I began dental school, and each of my professors spoke about the importance of mentorship. It was at that point in my D1 year that I thought, “Maybe I should find a mentor.”

I realized later that I have had numerous mentors throughout my life but had not explicitly labeled them as such. My definition of a mentor was something much more formal. I thought a mentor was an elderly individual you had to be in awe of, and he or she would give you incredible life advice and leave you in a state of enlightenment. I was wrong. A mentor can come in all shapes and sizes and can even be younger than you.

How do you find a mentor? If you’re a student and you take a particular interest in one of your courses, set up a meeting with the professor, and let them know that you are looking for a mentor. In the vast majority of cases, that professor will be more than happy to help you out and provide mentorship. Shadowing dentists is also a great way to find a mentor.

Shadowing allows you to see how the dentist treats their staff and patients and how they run their practice. If you like the way they do these things, they will probably be a good mentor for you. Having a dentist as your mentor is crucial while in school because they will help you focus on life outside of school. While it is extremely important to focus on school, knowing what you are getting into after graduation is also important.

Another great way to find a mentor is by attending dental conferences. Last year, I had the opportunity to attend AGD2021 in Austin, Texas, and AGD held a mentorship event in the New Dentist Lounge. At this event, we had the opportunity to speak with experienced dentists who were there specifically to help us. You can form lifelong friendships and mentorships by attending a short event such as this.

An often-overlooked aspect of mentorship is having mentors with various perspectives. This will give you a well-rounded perspective and can help you through the various stages of your dental journey. I am currently looking at buying a practice, and it has been beneficial to talk with both a dentist who has owned a dental practice for 30 years and one who has only been a practice owner for two years.

While finding a good mentor is important, you also have to know how to be a good mentee. You cannot be taught if you do not want to learn. It is important to be open to new ideas and know that there is always more than one viewpoint when being mentored. It is also essential to be consistent and to follow through. If you say you will have meetings with your mentor once a month, you need to do that. It is important to learn if your mentor likes inperson meetings or is OK with virtual ones. If you are not a good mentee, you cannot expect to gain anything from mentorship.

The benefits of mentorship are vast. You gain knowledge that you would have found out the hard way or expertise that would have taken years to acquire. Mentorship also gives you access to an individual who has been through similar problems you might face and can give you invaluable insight. It can help keep you motivated in dental school knowing someone has been where you are and has conquered what you are facing. If you are thinking about seeking out a mentor, do it. Do not be afraid to ask someone for help who was once in your shoes.

Clayton Sorrells is the third-year AGD student representative at the Louisiana State University School of Dentistry. To comment on this article, email impact@agd.org