by Priya Lokasundaram
While pursuing my BSN course, I accidentally stumbled upon the Global Thrombosis Forum. It is here that I wanted to expand my experience and hence I was offered to work as a mentor to the young students. My experience as a mentor and mentee with the Global Thrombosis Forum (GTF) has been anything but ordinary. I have seen tremendous self-evolution because of my mentor while simultaneously getting true gratification through being a mentor myself. I want to share my experience with the intention of inspiring others to get involved with mentorship or find a mentor and reap the wonderful benefits of these relationships.
What is a mentor?
A mentor, by definition, is someone to advise or train (someone, especially a younger colleague).
A mentor may share with a mentee (or protege) information about his or her own career path, as well as provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling. A mentor may help with exploring careers, setting goals, developing contacts, and identifying resources.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary meaning of a mentor
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines mentor as a trusted counselor or guide. A mentor is an individual, usually older, always more experienced, who helps guide another individual’s development. The mentor’s role is to guide, to give advice, and to support the mentee. A mentor can help a person (mentee) improve his or her abilities and skills through observation, assessment, modeling, and by providing guidance.
To me a mentor is someone who is able to give advice and shares their experiences. The mentee now has the benefit of all of this knowledge and is able to build on it and add in their own experiences over time. The mentee gets a head start on learning valuable lessons with the guidance of their mentor this allows the mentee to feel confident exploring new methods and ideations.
But the mentor is also benefiting from this relationship! We all can get stuck in our ways sometimes especially when we are very experienced at something, but having a new fresh mind that does not have a lot of experience can breed new ideas and avenues for improvement. The mentor may find different methods of doing something that may be more efficient with the help of their mentee.
I looked at the literature and found that I need to develop a relationship of trust with my mentor before any effective mentoring can take place. An environment of trust and mutuality must be established. It is important for the mentor and mentee to become acquainted with each other. I found that the relationship should start by a getting-to-know-you session. The mentor should greet the mentee warmly and help the mentee identify his or her professional needs and goals. The mentor should learn about the mentee’s educational background and experience, and share information about his or her own background and experience. The mentor can then continue to build upon the mentees strengths, needs, and goals throughout the mentoring period. I learned that I needed to establish short and long-term goals. These goals are to become the basis for mentoring activities. For example, a mentor and mentee might determine they want to improve math and science experiences within the preschool classroom. A short-term goal could be to create new interest centers within the classroom featuring items such as seashells, pine cones, rocks, and magnifying glasses. A long-term goal could be to facilitate ongoing classroom activities using the materials in a variety of experiences. The mentor would then support the mentee in reaching these goals.
Mentors need to provide constructive feedback to mentees on goal progression. Mentees should have an opportunity to be reflective on their actions and be given written feedback to review. The mentor can note their observations in a positive, constructive manner and describe any actions taken by the mentee in connection to the established goals. Later the mentor and mentees can review the observations and determine the next steps. Open, respectful, and supportive communication is essential to this process. I truly believe a healthy mentor/mentee relationship is imperative to personal and professional growth for both of these people.
Exploring an unchartered territory
Is it possible to be both a mentor and a mentee at the same time? Can we teach others while we ourselves are being taught?
Well, in my case, this has been possible! I joined GTF through my friend Shriya Athalye. We were roommates during my undergrad and through our friendship I met her mother Archana Aunty. One of my goals was to make a difference in the lives of the younger generation. Once I was accepted into nursing school Archana Aunty gave me the opportunity to achieve that goal through this wonderful organization!
My real life experience in this area
That is where I met my mentor Dr. Atul Laddu. At first, I needed to understand what my role would be. I needed guidance to understand the techniques and challenges involved in mentoring young GTF members. Dr. Laddu and I met virtually over Zoom and had a good chat about our backgrounds and I told him about my ambitions to be a nurse practitioner. He then explained what GTF was all about, the various projects they work on, and what I would be expected to do to mentor younger members. Needless to say, I was hooked right away! We have developed a great relationship with Dr. Laddu as my mentor.
So you may be wondering how our relationship works due to my unique role in the organization. Given Dr. Laddu’s vast experience in medicine, research and life in general, he is the perfect mentor for me. I personally like to be challenged and pushed outside of my comfort zone because I believe it helps me become a more well-rounded person and healthcare professional.
I wanted a mentor that helped me do that. Dr. Laddu is the perfect balance of supportive and challenging. He has challenged me in several ways in our time together. This is because of his perfected ability to challenge me but simultaneously support me. He throws a challenge at me, and yet is there to help me if I need it.
All of these experiences will help me become a more well rounded healthcare professional and ultimately allow me to be the best I can be for the patients I am taking care of.
But I am also a mentor to younger GTF members, some as young as middle school. So I must have the same qualities that I expect from my mentor! I have learned so much about how to be an excellent mentor from Dr. Laddu. I find myself using his methods to ensure my mentees are getting the most out of the project. I find myself always trying to make sure my mentees are enjoying the project and having fun while also being able to understand the importance behind what they are doing. I try to explain the value behind each project and how it will benefit them in the future. Given that I have recently gone through high school and college it is easier for me to put things into perspective for them because we can relate to each other on a different level.
Developing my skills
Dr. Laddu pushed me in developing several skills, such as writing, presentation, research and publications skills.
My writing skills have improved tremendously with the help of Dr. Laddu. I have learned several different styles of writing including conversational, research and articles. I have also been given the opportunity to edit articles before they are released for publication. The first article I edited was a true challenge. The article that my mentees and I created originally was well over 1,000 words and the publisher’s cutoff was 750 words. I experienced the heartache of having to be decisive about deleting important information out of the article. Dr. Laddu embodied mentorship in this moment because he was supporting me while simultaneously letting me figure it out on my own. Since this experience, my writing and editing skills have improved ten-fold.
Presentations and public speaking are a weakness of mine and something I strongly desire to improve upon. Every GTF call I participate in is an opportunity for me to overcome my weakness. From the beginning, Dr. Laddu handed me control of the meetings which was a bit nerve wracking at first. However, I have seen major improvements in my confidence, presentation and leadership capabilities over time. These meetings helped me gain the courage to do a presentation of my own about my experiences in GTF at the 8th Annual Anniversary Event. This moment helped solidify my confidence and gave me the determination to take on any leadership opportunities that come my way.
Research is an area not liked by everybody because it is difficult and cumbersome, and one doesn’t know what will come out at the other end. However in my career as a BSN student and MSN student I am convinced that a proper research technique would be of enormous help to me. Almost every project I have undertaken with GTF has involved research and publication.
Dr. Laddu has given me complete freedom to develop my own mentoring techniques, and I am definitely on my way to doing so! Because of GTF and Dr. Laddu and I have found a passion for mentorship which I hope to continue throughout my career.
My future plans
As far as the future, I see myself working with GTF and Dr. Laddu for a very long time. This organization provides such unique experiences to our younger members that will be extremely beneficial to them not only in academics but also in their careers. The opportunity to be exposed to research in general is not something most students are given the opportunity to do until college. Our younger members are one step ahead which I’ve found is a common theme in GTF. They are always trying to provide members with unique and worthwhile experiences that will help them in whatever avenue they decide to take in life. GTF has given me the opportunity to play a role in providing our younger members with this invaluable experience while simultaneously challenging me and helping me grow as well.
Summary and conclusions
In summary, I think I have opened a new chapter in my life by combining two of my skills, to be a mentee and to be a mentor. As a student, I have always been very hungry to learn new skills that might help me in my future career, and I think that this adventure has really paid me a lot. My future goal would be to duplicate my experience with other students and make this world a bit smaller!
About the Author:
Priya Lokasundaram is a nursing student at Mercer University and has a unique role and experience in Global Thrombosis Forum (GTF) as a mentor and a mentee.