Reflections From the Liminal Space: Transitions from Protégé to Mentor

Teresa Chan is our guest blogger this week, sharing her experience of becoming a Clinician Educator. 

Enter Teresa.

-Jonathan  (@sherbino)


By Teresa Chan (@TChanMD)

On Tuesday , I reflected on the transition that I’m undergoing from education fellow to Clinician Educator.  And, though I don’t truly feel like a full-fledged CE, there are new responsibilities that I now must assume. One of these responsibilities is becoming a good mentor for the next generation of educators.

During my training, I greatly benefited from being mentored by a number of faculty (and senior trainees). As Jason Frank and Jonathan Sherbino have described it, you often need more than one – essentially a Board of Directors for your life. Now I need to pay it forward.

A 12 tips paper on mentoring (by Ramini et al., 2006) makes a number of great suggestions. Some of the most important things I discovered were:

1)     Mentors need clear expectations of roles;

2)     Mentors are not born, they are developed;

3)     Mentors need a forum to express their uncertainties and problems.

Mentoring from the Middle

As I develop as a Clinician Educator, I have taken on several mentoring roles. I serve as the faculty advisor for the McMaster University multi-specialty academic day, mentoring the resident leader. I must confess that it is often hard for me to be the one ‘nudging’ rather than doing.

Meanwhile, I have been very excited to begin mentoring individuals involved in education research. Some of these relationships involve near-peer mentorship roles, while others are a traditional mentor-protégé supervisory role. A classic JAMA systematic review in 2006 suggested that there was a correlation between research mentorship and success (2.33x more likely to achieve promotion; 14.1x more confident in education; 19.9x more confident in professional development).

The great part of mentoring from the middle is that when I face an issue that I’m uncertain about, I have my own mentors to go to! For Clinician Educators in the liminal space, I would highly recommend this approach when beginning to mentor others. Make sure you have support from experienced CEs. It strengthens your connection to your mentors AND it improves the quality of the support you provide for your protégés.

I rather like being stuck in the middle.



1. Ramani, S., Gruppen, L., & Kachur, E. K. (2006). Twelve tips for developing effective mentors. Medical teacher28(5), 404-408.

2. Sambunjak, D., Straus, S. E., & Marušić, A. (2006). Mentoring in academic medicine. JAMA: the journal of the American Medical Association296(9), 1103-1115.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /