To succeed, mentors need to build just and trusting relationships
Dr. Martha Ainslie is the 2020 recipient of the Mentor of the Year award for Region 2
As many physicians will tell you, a caring, approachable mentor who provides guidance without pretension can make the difference between a stressful early career and a truly rewarding one. At the University of Manitoba, current and former trainees of Martha Ainslie, MD, FRCPC, say her personal and professional style personify the “Gold Standard” in supportive mentorship.
Dr. Ainslie was recruited to the University of Manitoba in 2010 and currently acts as section head of Adult Respirology at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. Known universally as “Martha,” Dr. Ainslie is regarded as an exemplary academic clinician, with particular expertise in tuberculosis and a strong dedication to promoting equity and inclusion in medicine.
Her trainees credit Dr. Ainslie with having had an outsize influence in their professional development by gently and compassionately challenging them to evolve, improve and pursue their goals.
“Fortunately for me, Martha embraced the role of mentor in addition to that of clinical teacher,” said David Christiansen, MD, FRCPC. “In the beginning, we would meet in her office to review my career goals. Later on, she would selflessly encourage me to leave Winnipeg for respiratory training – something many program directors might strategically discourage – so I could achieve the broadest possible training experience.”
As a mentor, Dr. Ainslie leads by example, first working to pinpoint what her trainees need and then figuring out the best ways to put the elements in place for success. Nancy Porhownik, MD, FRCPC, said that by continually challenging the Respirology group to evolve and improve across all aspects of their personal and professional lives, Dr. Ainslie has created a more cohesive and successful team.
“Dr. Anthony Tjan on TED.com says that everyone can use five mentors … because rarely can one person give you everything you need to grow,” said Dr. Porhownik. “But Martha is that rare person.”
In addition to being a master of her craft, Dr. Ainslie is a natural advocate and a supportive “co-pilot” who journeys alongside her trainees, challenging them while holding them accountable. She is an effective sounding board, and a “reverse mentor,” willing and eager to learn from those she mentors.
Dr. Ainslie believes that great mentoring involves establishing a just and trusting relationship with a mentee. “From a section head point of view I think it is very important that we establish a collaborative and just culture in our divisions and departments,” she said. “The key is to listen and figure out where your mentees are and what they need. Then decide what is in your realm to change.”