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SWRO's Mentorship Program

Written by: Crystal Seldon, MD and Lindsay Puckett, MD.

The Society for Women in Radiation Oncology (SWRO) was founded in 2017 with the aim of providing a platform and support for female radiation oncologists. In 2018, a dedicated mentorship program was initiated to fill an unmet need for female mentors. Over the next two years, more than 100 pairings were created among students, residents and junior and senior attendings based on commonalities such as geographic region and disease site interest. In 2020, an IRB exempt, anonymous survey was administered to participants. This represented the initial evaluation of the first large scale mentorship program specifically among women in radiation oncology. Questions included topics related to professional characteristics, ethnicity, pairing and program satisfaction.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, overall survey response rate was low (22%). However, through detailed responses from open-ended questions, valuable information was gathered on participating in remote mentorship. Many (42.9%) reported that they found the virtual pairing to be a positive experience and wanted to continue with their pair. Interestingly, 23% of respondents noted a lack of compatibility with their pairing(s), which led to the dyad’s dissolution or failure. Responses such as, “Did not really develop a relationship with mentee” and “Surprisingly, I felt my mentee and I were so different that we did not have much chemistry nor was it a fruitful experience” were given to questions evaluating the pairing. Responses suggested race and geographic location did not ultimately matter for the majority of respondents. Seemingly more crucial was chemistry in the pairing.

With more efficient telecommunication in recent times, one would assume that developing a relationship with a mentor would be easier than ever; however, this may not be the case. As many organizations move forward with virtual mentorship programs, developing a pairing process that goes beyond geography and ethnicity may yield a higher rate of successful pairings.

Crystal Seldon, MD is a PGY-3 radiation oncology resident at the University of Miami, and the current resident chair of the Mentorship Committee for SWRO. Lindsay Puckett, MD is an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and she was one of the founders of SWRO who previously served as the SWRO Mentorship Committee faculty chair.


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