Successful mentoring relationships impart valued perspective that sticks with mentees for life, and for Quy Nguyen, O.D., that bit of truth was this: Even the most seasoned mentors are still figuring it out as they go along.
"The important trait I noticed from the successful professionals whom I've worked with is that they aren't perfect, but they have a commitment and willingness to be lifelong learners, and they strive to become the best versions of themselves possible," Dr. Nguyen says.
That commitment to lifelong learning is a characteristic Dr. Nguyen now espouses himself. As director of career development at State University of New York (SUNY) College of Optometry, Dr. Nguyen oversees the school's Family of Mentors Program (FMP). Available to third- and fourth-year students, and residents, the FMP incorporates SUNY's online alumni platform to pair mentors and mentees. Currently, 295 alumni and other New York State Optometric Association members are accessible to more than 100 mentees.
The FMP—as all mentoring relationships—gives students and new doctors access to established, working professionals who can deliver insights that normally take years of experience to gain, Dr. Nguyen says. That makes it advantageous for a profession such as optometry.
"Mentoring can help students not only prepare for their working careers but also build their networks instantaneously," he says. "Additionally, due to the legislative nature of our profession, it is a great opportunity for AOA and state associations to have their members not only give back, but also, in the process, nurture a prospective member.
"Mentoring, itself, is valuable to any ambitious student, but particularly in a profession like optometry, it is extremely important."
Helpful mentoring tips
But beyond the all-critical component of building and maintaining that mentor-mentee relationship, successful mentors deliver advice that helps mentees navigate their academic and career decisions. Mentors should provide recommendations and opinions based on sound information that is in the mentee's best interest.
Gina Wesley, O.D., recalls mentors throughout her scholastic and professional career that positioned her for success-mentors such as advisor Kelly Nichols, O.D., at The Ohio State University College of Optometry, or AOA Vice President Barbara L. Horn, O.D., whose start-up story became a roadmap of sorts. Dr. Wesley offers several mentoring tips:
- Make sure the mentoring relationship is meaningful for both mentor and mentee by discussing expectation for both, she notes. Would they prefer to connect monthly, more often or less? What does each hope to gain from the relationship?
- Mentors should understand what they feel comfortable sharing. "I think it's important that the mentor/mentee aren't in a possible competitive situation professionally so that information shared is genuine and complete," Dr. Wesley writes.
- Mentees benefit from the knowledge of the mentor, so being respectful and realizing that different mentors bring different values and qualities to the relationship is important. "Although mentors can help identify weaknesses, I personally feel that life and professional coaching is better served to address weaknesses, while mentoring should be focused on sharing the mentor's knowledge, experience and strengths to mentees," Dr. Wesley notes.
AOA members report wind and rain damage, but harder to overcome are widespread power outages in the greater New Orleans area—and it could be days to weeks before power is fully restored. Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief, created to help doctors of optometry in the wake of Hurricane Katrina 16 years ago, can aid doctors and students.
The public health emergency continues to cast its shadow on a new school year, but it’s far from the only thing on educators’ minds. How are optometric faculty and staff preparing for the year ahead?
With wildfires burning and a prediction of an active hurricane season, doctors of optometry and students have somewhere to turn for financial support in the event of disaster. Optometry’s Fund for Disaster Relief (OFDR) is optometry's exclusive financial support program that provides immediate assistance to those in need after disasters. Learn how to apply for a grant or make a donation.