Answer to "What is the structure of a good mentor-mentee interaction?"


Topic Editor: Lianne Loosveld

The systematic review by Sambunjak et al. (2010) pointed out that mentees and mentors have a number of preferable characteristics. Mentees should be proactive in the (initiation of) the relationship, be willing to learn and accept feedback and advise to overcome their potential weaknesses. They should prepare for meetings, do their tasks and keep their mentors up to date. Mentors then, should be honest and open to their students, listen actively and understand mentees’ needs. Based on their review, Sambunjak et al. (2010) composed a list of desirable mentor

characteristics on three levels:








Note. Reprinted from: “A systematic review of qualitative research on the meaning and characteristics of mentoring in academic medicine”, by Sambunjak D, Straus S,  Marusic A (2010). J Gen Int Med, 25(1), p.74


Evidence on equivalence in gender, race or ethnicity within a mentoring relationship is inconclusive, and matching mentors and mentees based on these aspects is of secondary importance compared to having mentors that are sensitive to individual differences. Additionally, a multiple-mentor model could overcome the challenge of having a mentor where mentees cannot fully identify with when it comes to gender, race, ethnical and other differences.

Mentoring relationships are not static but change into different phases over time, from the initiation phase in the first (half of the) year to the cultivation phase, where both mentor and mentee can benefit from the relationship, and contact could intensify. When the mentoring relationship has reached its goal or mentor/mentee outgrow the relationship it separates. After the separation phase, redefinition takes place and the relationship either ends, or both partners form a different relationship than during mentoring and carry on being in touch (Sng et al. 2017).



Sambunjak D, Straus S, Marusic A (2010). A systematic review of qualitative research on the meaning and characteristics of mentoring in academic medicine. J Gen Intern Med, 25(1):72-78.

Sng J, Pei Y, Toh Y, Peh T, Neo S, Krishna L (2017). Mentoring relationships between senior physicians and junior doctors and/or medical students: A thematic review. Med Teach, 39:866-75.

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