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Letters to the Editor

In Reply to Patel et al

Choi, Augustine M.K. MD; Steinecke, Ann PhD; Prescott, John E. MD

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doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003169
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We thank Patel and colleagues from the Kern Institute for their insightful comments, which highlight the importance of mentorship in the personal development of physicians, especially as clinician burnout reaches near-epidemic levels. As they suggest, the character traits that make good mentors would ideally be transferred to mentees through ongoing relationships, leading to doctors who are at once academically successful, self-actualized, and professionally engaged.

At Weill Cornell Medicine, mentorship as a strategic priority is closely tied to other institutional goals related to well-being and diversity and inclusion, as well as academic productivity. We feel that the benefits of mentorship on character development are particularly significant for medical students, who face increasing rates of burnout, anxiety, and depression compared to age-matched peers, right at the start of their careers.1,2 In September 2019, Weill Cornell Medicine hosted a first-of-its-kind National Conference on Medical Student Mental Health and Well-Being, in partnership with the Association of American Medical Colleges and others, to focus attention on the need for self-care, resilience training, and other interventions starting early in the educational experience.

One of the themes to emerge from the conference was the importance of strong mentoring relationships to help students navigate the intense intellectual and emotional demands of medical school. Medical students need mentors to guide them as they learn to accept the inevitability of human error, deal with today’s mechanized health care system, and balance personal and professional responsibilities. Renewed social connections in the medical education environment—between teachers and learners, as well as between doctors and patients, and peers and colleagues—can infuse greater meaning and motivation to the practice of medicine.3

The core mission of every medical school is to train students to provide effective and compassionate care to patients, and to fulfill this obligation, medical schools must model to students how to care for themselves and maintain their own well-being. Mentorship in this vein is critical to developing the next generation of healthy physicians and will have a lasting impact on patient care and health care systems into the future.

Augustine M.K. Choi, MD
Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean, Weill Cornell Medicine, and provost for medical affairs, Cornell University, New York, New York;
Ann Steinecke, PhD
Senior director, Academic Affairs Programs and Engagement, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.
John E. Prescott, MD
Chief academic officer, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.


1. Brazeau CM, Shanafelt T, Durning SJ, et al. Distress among matriculating medical students relative to the general population. Acad Med. 2014;89:1520–1525.
2. Dyrbye LN, West CP, Satele D, et al. Burnout among U.S. medical students, residents, and early career physicians relative to the general U.S. population. Acad Med. 2014;89:443–451.
3. Schwenk TL. Physician well-being and the regenerative power of caring. JAMA. 2018;319:1543–1544.
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