Open Access Research article

Mentorship and pursuit of academic medicine careers: a mixed methods study of residents from diverse backgrounds

Baligh R Yehia18*, Peter F Cronholm2, Nicholas Wilson1, Steven C Palmer3, Stephen D Sisson4, Conair E Guilliames5, Norma I Poll-Hunter6 and John-Paul Sánchez7

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

2 Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

3 Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

4 Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland

5 Department of Family Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York

6 Diversity Policy and Programs, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC, USA

7 Department of Emergency Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, USA

8 1309 Blockley Hall, 423 Guardian Drive, Philadelphia 19104, Pennsylvania

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:26  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-26

Published: 9 February 2014



Mentorship influences career planning, academic productivity, professional satisfaction, and most notably, the pursuit of academic medicine careers. Little is known about the role of mentoring in recruiting Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino residents into academia. The objective of this study was to assess the influence of mentoring on academic medicine career choice among a cohort of racially and ethnically diverse residents.


A strategic convenience sample of U.S. residents attending national professional conferences between March and July 2010; residents completed a quantitative survey and a subset participated in focus groups.


Of the 250 residents, 183 (73%) completed surveys and 48 participated in focus groups. Thirty-eight percent of residents were white, 31% Black/African American, 17% Asian/other, and 14% Hispanic/Latino. Most respondents (93%) reported that mentorship was important for entering academia, and 70% reported having sufficient mentorship to pursue academic careers. Three themes about mentorship emerged from focus groups: (1) qualities of successful mentorship models; (2) perceived benefits of mentorship; and (3) the value of racial/ethnic and gender concordance. Residents preferred mentors they selected rather than ones assigned to them, and expressed concern about faculty using checklists. Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and female residents described actively seeking out mentors of the same race/ethnicity and gender, but expressed difficulty finding such mentors. Lack of racial/ethnic concordance was perceived as an obstacle for minority mentees, requiring explanation of the context and nuances of their perspectives and situations to non-minority mentors.


The majority of residents in this study reported having access to mentors. However, data show that the lack of diverse faculty mentors may impede diverse residents’ satisfaction and benefit from mentorship relationships compared to white residents. These findings are important for residency programs striving to enhance resident mentorship and for institutions working to diversify their faculty and staff to achieve institutional excellence.

Residents; Postgraduate; Academic careers; Career choice; Diversity; Minority; Mentorship; Mentoring; Medical education