We began our discussion by sharing who we each remembered investing in us or mentoring us as young physicians and how we saw that displayed. Many members of the group mentioned their residency or fellowship program directors as being very influential and how they experienced mentoring. A few participates had trouble coming up with anyone who was particularly helpful and they even may have resented the fact that no one had taken as much interest as others had experienced. Then there were some members of the group who had a clear mentor-mentee relationship and were able to discuss how beneficial it was to them.
There are many mentor relationships demonstrated in the Bible. Moses and Joshua, Paul and Timothy and Jesus and his apostles are just a few of those. This evening we concentrated on the relationship of Elijah and Elisha in the Old Testament. To begin we read of a passage that occurs just before Elijah is taken up into heaven. It is found in 2 Kings 2:1-15. We first discussed why Elisha refused to depart from Elijah each time he was told to do so. It was pointed out that Elisha knew his time with his mentor was short and he wanted to soak up as much as possible from him before they parted. We discussed how some of us experienced this with our mentors in the past. In verse 9 Elisha asks Elijah for a “double portion of his Spirit.” We talked about how as we go through training and beyond and we all feel a desire to be like the physicians we admire and even want to be better than them – sort of a desire for a double portion of their ability and spirit. We then turned to what happens after Elijah is taken up in a heavenly chariot. What did Elisha do as his first act? He struck the river Jordan with his cloak just as he had just seen Elijah do and the river parted. We discussed what this symbolized for Elisha and how similar it is to how some of us would learn so well how our Mentors practiced that we copied them in many ways. It was pointed out that this is how mentees learn and become the physicians we want them to be. We discussed in what ways we are similar to our mentors.
Then our discussion turned more to the viewpoint of Elijah as a mentor. We talked about why it was important for Elijah to instruct Elisha and why it is important for us to stay involved in mentoring our medical students, residents and junior physicians. We discussed how involved we are in teaching and what our experiences with teaching and mentoring have been. Some of these have been very positive and others have had frequent frustrations with the present system of training. This was thoroughly discussed. There were variety of factors that many felt inhibit this relationship these days. Some of the younger members of the group felt that the pressures of residency are so great that investing additional time with a mentor relationship was simply more than they can handle. Lastly, we mentioned who we select to mentor and it was clear that we gravitate to those young students and physicians who show a particular interest in the subject matter that we have to offer. It is clearly a to and fro relationship with each person having to invest their time and effort to see a substantial benefit.
We closed our discussion with reading Phil 4:9 in which Paul urges his followers to put into practice whatever they have learned or received or heard from him. This is our heart’s desire as Christian physicians for our mentees as well.