Original Article

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 24, Issue 10, pp 1130-1134

First online:

The Influence of Mentorship and Role Modeling on Developing Physician–Leaders: Views of Aspiring and Established Physician–Leaders

  • Christine A. TaylorAffiliated withCleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, Case Western Reserve UniversityCleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, Education Institute, Cleveland ClinicEducation Institute NA25, Cleveland Clinic Email author 
  • , Jay C. TaylorAffiliated withEngineering Technologies, Owens Community College
  • , James K. StollerAffiliated withJean Wall Bennett Professor of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine Cleveland ClinicPhysician Leadership Development, Cleveland ClinicCleveland Clinic Respiratory Therapy, Cleveland ClinicEducation Institute, Cleveland Clinic

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Although the benefits of mentoring in academic medical centers have been amply discussed, the major focus has been on conferring traditional academic skills (e.g., grantsmanship, publications, etc.). In contrast, little attention has been given to the career development of physician–leaders (e.g., communication, vision, teambuilding, etc.).


To understand the role and functions of mentoring and role-modeling in developing physician–leaders as experienced by aspiring and established physician–leaders.


Qualitative design using a stratified purposeful sample and inductive analysis.


Semi-structured interviews.


Twenty-five Cleveland Clinic faculty participated (14 established physician–leaders, 11 aspiring leaders). Three themes emerged: 1. Role modeling was differentiated as a valued experience separate from mentoring, with respondents describing the significant influence of purely observational learning and “watching leaders-in-action”. 2. Many respondents favored a series of “strategic” interactions with various individuals about specific professional issues rather than traditional, longitudinal mentoring experiences. 3. Emotional and psychological support was considered the most valued type of interventional activity.


In our small sample both established and aspiring physician leaders believed that mentorship and role modeling played a significant role in their career development. Short, focused “strategic” mentoring relationships were favored by many over the classic longitudinal experience. Our participants valued role-modeling as an experience separate from mentoring and described the impact of learning from direct observation of skilled leaders. The educational implications of these findings are summarized.


mentorship role modeling physician leadership