Anne MacDonald (undergraduate Pre-Med student at Boston College)
Taylor Coe, MD (General Surgery Resident at Mass General Hospital)
Sienna Li, BS (Harvard Medical Student)
Eleonore Baughan, BS (Dartmouth Medical Student)
Lakshmi Atthota, MBBS (General Surgery Resident at Maimonides and Transplant Research Fellow at Mass General Hospital)
Teresia M Perkins (Clinical Research Coordinator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital)
Maggie Chen, BS (University of Maryland Medical Student)
Steven Criss, BS (Harvard Medical Student)
Leigh Anne Dageforde, MD, MPH (Transplant Surgeon at Mass General Hospital)
Mentorship is a critical component for success as an academic surgeon. Starting early in the career path, mentorship can guide young students and trainees through the process of specially selection, training applications, and eventual job selection. In research, mentors guide trainees in the development of ideas, fostering investigative curiosity, and conducting research. However, finding relatable mentorship can be a challenge! Faculty mentors are often busy and overstretched, and often surgical residents and fellows are similarly limited by their schedule. Team mentorship has been shown to improve success of the mentee (Chopra et al., 2020).
Inspired in part by the Transplant Research, Education, and Engagement Group (TREE) at the University of Michigan, where participation from individuals of diverse levels and backgrounds is both welcomed and encouraged (Highet et al., 2021), the Group for Research Education and the Future of Transplantation (GRaFT) at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School serves as an inclusive and enriching space for individuals interested in or pursuing a career in transplant surgery.
Dr. Taylor Coe, MD, is a general surgery resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and a co-founder of GRaFT. She expressed her vision for the group below:
“GRaFT is one of my most meaningful efforts of residency. We strove to build a collaborative, supportive, inspiring group that was open to all trainees to help build the pipeline of surgery and transplant surgery. I am so proud of how the group has grown, all that the members have accomplished and the mentorship that spans all stages of training, from pre medical students to chief residents. I have grown as both a mentor and a mentee through involvement with this group and am excited to see all of the great future work GRaFT members create.”
Traditionally mentorship has been felt to be a hierarchical downward direction from mentor to mentee. However, effective mentorship can also move upward and lateral as well (Zhang et al., 2021). GRaFT members range from undergraduate and medical students to general surgery residents, research and clinical transplant fellows, and transplant surgeons. GRaFT thrives on the model of co-mentorship where mentorship is a collaborative group effort from members at all levels. “Our research group is close-knit but growing steadily…everyone, regardless of where they are in their training, feels comfortable to share their opinions and knowledge.”-Transplant Surgery Research Fellow
Bimonthly virtual meetings allow for active collaboration and dialogue surrounding both specific research projects and broader educational topics. Open discussions regarding research at virtual meetings provide an opportunity for all members to discuss and ask questions, and informational presentations given by members of varying levels on applicable topics such as biostatistics, writing effective research papers, and preparing for the medical school surgery rotation create a supportive academic culture.
“I am about to start clerkships and recently referenced the slides from our presentation on how to succeed in a surgical clerkship. I am also in the process of trying to teach myself statistics for a project and referenced the slides from our introduction to statistics and data analysis for clinical outcomes research presentation.” – Medical student “… presentation on writing academic papers for publications was very informative. This knowledge will prepare me better for academic writing in the future.”– Future Medical Student
Research projects are led by senior members of the group, who support and mentor the engagement of junior members.
“Research can sometimes feel like a black box and GRaFT has given me great exposure to understanding how projects are executed from start to finish.” –Medical Student
“I am extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to learn about various projects and invaluable skills as part of this experience.”–Medical Student
Quarterly in-person social gatherings also allow local GRaFT members to connect with their mentors and mentees in a more informal setting to both receive and offer advice regarding all aspects of the path to becoming a transplant surgeon. For example, these events give pre-medical undergraduate students the valuable opportunity to talk with current medical students about the path to medical school and school-life balance in a way that is natural and encouraging, and medical students have the opportunity to do so with residents, fellows, and attendings.
“This group introduced me to the intricacies of a field of medicine that we barely get exposed to in medical school. Maybe most importantly, GRaFT gave me an example of female leadership in a competitive, fast-paced field.”–Medical Student
With several individuals having maintained GRaFT membership from their time as undergraduates and medical students to current status as residents and fellows, GRaFT has and continues to encourage long-lasting mentor-mentee relationships that will support and enrich the future of transplant surgery.
“Joining GRaFT was my first exposure to the world of surgery and allowed me to explore many
different facets of surgery within this one group—from transplant surgery and general surgery to
surgical care for pediatric patients and surgical research….As a GRaFT member from its very beginning, I have been a beneficiary of the invaluable mentorship from attendings, social workers, and residents throughout all four years of medical school, which I couldn’t be more thankful for as I head to residency this summer…Best of all, the people I’ve spent time with through GRaFT have been wonderful role models and make me excited for my future as a surgeon.”–Medical Student
The model of peer mentorship and collaboration has been effective for our group and is something that could be replicated by other institutions and specialties. Key to the success of this group is involvement of students and trainees from all levels who are willing to share their journey and areas of expertise with others. The co-mentorship has been powerful leading to lasting relationships along with research and academic success.
Chopra, V., Dimick, J. B., & Saint, S. (2020). Making Mentorship a Team Effort. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/03/making-mentorship-a-team-effort
Highet, A., Gomez-Rexrode, A. E., Barrett, M., Santos-Parker, K. S., Santos-Parker, J. R., Cassidy, D. E., Herman, A. E., Kulick, A. A., Brown, C. S., Montgomery, J. R., Wakam, G. K., Englesbe, M. J., & Waits, S. A. (2021). Fostering Passion and Skills in Surgical Research Across the Medical Education Continuum: The Transplant Research, Education, and Engagement Group. Journal of Surgical Education, 78(1), 356–360. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsurg.2020.07.006
Zhang, T., Wang, D. J., & Galinsky, A. (2021). Learning Down to Train Up: Mentors are More Effective When They Gather Insights from Below. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2021(1), 11939. https://doi.org/10.5465/ambpp.2021.11939abstract