Avoiding False Starts Through Mentorship: Dr. Keith Wong, MD ’09
As a medical student, I knew mentorship was important — but that doesn’t mean I made a point of actively seeking it out. If I had, I would surely have avoided a false start to my medical career: embarking on a residency program that wasn’t for me.
While still in medical school, I decided to pursue obstetrics — the challenge, complexity and impact all stood out to me. But instead of reaching out to practicing specialists to find out about the day-to-day realities of the field, I forged ahead.
Soon enough I realized that while it can be a very rewarding area of medicine for many, it wasn’t the right fit for me. I made the difficult decision to switch programs, opting to go into family medicine.
I’ve since thrived in my career. I work in both community and hospital settings, and have done some surgical assisting, teaching and clinic work as well. I am also in the midst of completing a master’s program in clinical science through the Department of Family Medicine through the University of Western Ontario.
But I sometimes wonder whether mentorship could have helped me make the right decision about my specialty the first time around. It was complicated to switch programs and might have been avoided if I’d sought out guidance earlier.
It’s one thing to learn the medical side of a specialty — or the technical side of any career — and quite another to hear from someone who’s been doing it for a while. There are surprises you wouldn’t have considered.
I now know that a mentor can help in every stage of a medical career. One of my mentors is Dr. John Jordan (MD ’79), who was a preceptor during my family medicine residency. Even now that I’m a practicing family physician, we still keep in touch. He gave me some great advice about where and how I should start my practice and pitfalls to be aware of.
And even early on in medical school, when having doubts about whether I belonged in the MD program at all, one of my teachers, Dr. Paul Caulford (BSc ’72, MD ’78, MSc ’75), took the time to talk with me after a class, sharing his own feelings of self-doubt when he was a student. This conversation inspired and motivated me — and it still does.
So when I saw the call for mentors from the MD Alumni Mentorship Program, I volunteered. I wanted to help younger learners as they navigate their career options, and make some of the big decisions around specialty training. My role as a mentor is to be a sounding board — to share ideas and support them in decision-making. And it’s rewarding to guide the students through the mentorship process and satisfying to see them gain something from it.
It has also been nostalgic for me. Medical school was such a memorable experience — A time of learning and cultivating new skills. I really cherish that sense of camaraderie with my classmates. Mentoring medical students reminds me of that, and it revitalizes my passion for medicine.
Perhaps it will also help them avoid their own false starts.