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During our training as orthopaedic surgeons, we develop a strong ability to focus. Whether we are preparing for tomorrow’s difficult case, seeing the next patient in-clinic or drafting our next manuscript, we recognize the importance of what we are doing at the moment and then dedicate the time and mental energy to get it done. In many ways, this capacity to focus is a great asset. However, the downside is that, if unchecked, focusing solely on what we are doing in the present moment can make us myopic. I believe it is extremely important for us to be able to take a step back to consider our careers and lives in the broader contexts of where we have been, and where we want to go. Without a larger goal to work towards, our daily grind loses meaning and purpose.

One of the best ways to push ourselves to think on a larger scale is through a mentorship – either as the mentor or the mentee. There is something uniquely powerful about engaging in honest, meaningful conversation with someone at a different stage in their career. From the perspective of the mentee, a mentor can provide guidance on how to navigate new, sometimes intimidating circumstances. For instance, hearing that a senior surgeon has encountered similar struggles and setbacks can be tremendously reassuring and encouraging to a mentee. From the perspective of the mentor (with which I have limited experience as a current orthopaedic resident), it can be extremely gratifying to help someone else simply by sharing the knowledge and experience you’ve gained over the years. In addition, it can be reinvigorating to interact with young, driven mentees who remind you why you chose the career path you did.

So please, during your busy day today, stop for a moment and think back on the path you have taken in your career so far. Likely, what will come to mind are the names of several individuals who had an outsized impact on your professional and personal development. With this in mind, I challenge you to reach out to someone at a different stage in their career. Send an email, shoot them a text or maybe even chat in person.  It may end up sparking a relationship that will benefit you in ways you cannot foresee yet.

Robin H. Dunn, MD PGY4
Department of Orthopedics
The University of Colorado
[email protected]


DISCLAIMER: Statements of fact and opinion are the responsibility of the authors alone and do not imply an opinion or endorsement on the part of the officers or the members of WOA unless such opinion or endorsement is specifically stated. Materials may be reproduced only if Touches and the Western Orthopaedic Association are credited.


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