Reflections on the loss of mentors

  • Lara VarpioEmail author


There is a special category of mentor: the person who supports you as much as they support your career. They offer a unique relationship that is rich and powerful. Researchers have tried to better understand this relationship and the other varieties of mentoring relationships. But there is a significant gap in that research: we don’t talk about the experience of the sudden loss of a mentor. Sometimes mentoring relationships end—especially if the mentoring was in support of specific goals, learning objectives, or when the relationship simply no longer fits the needs of the mentor or the mentee. But sometimes disease, tragic accidents, or other powers beyond our control intervene; suddenly, relationships with important mentors are simply gone. How do we navigate these losses? In this piece, I reflect on the most powerful mentorship relationships, on the loss thereof, and on the challenges of mourning lost mentors. It celebrates mentors who invest in others, who put we ahead of me. This elegy is for Dr. Joanna Bates and Dr. Meridith Marks—two women who embodied the highest qualities of mentorship.


Mentorship Loss Elegy 



With the deepest thanks to Joanna Bates, MD, Meridith Marks, MD, and Carol Aschenbrener, MD – for everything.


The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the United States Department of Defense or other federal agencies.

Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medicine, Graduate Programs in Health Professions EducationUniformed Services University of the Health SciencesBethesdaUSA

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