The value of mentoring in ophthalmology

Valuable advice is just as important as professional training

Cédric Schweitzer

Posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2019

In Greek mythology and Homer’s Odyssey, Mentor was the name of Ulysses’ experienced advisor and was in charge of the education of his son, Telemachus, during the war against the Trojans. While Ulysses was away, Mentor gave Telemachus wise advice to help him making appropriate decisions and help him keep the control of the kingdom of Ithaca. In our modern era, a mentor is not only a supervisor but also an experienced and trained adviser who guides you in shaping your career and helps you in developing your professional skills.

When I started my residency in ophthalmology, I was fascinated by visual function and research about eye disorders. I could also observe the permanent improvement in diagnosis or treatment of common eye disorders and I was impressed by all innovations improving visual care and health benefit for patients.

However, my interest in ophthalmology has been particularly raised by the professional skills, the charisma and the visionary approach of my first supervisor, Professor Joseph Colin (Bordeaux University Hospital, France). As a doctor and a professor, he taught me the best clinical and surgical practice in ophthalmology. As a professional supervisor, he also shared his enthusiasm, he provided constructive and accurate comments and always encouraged me to develop my professional skills. But, most importantly, he also gave me valuable and wise advice to collaborate with best experts in my field and to be in the forefront of innovation in visual science and care.

Owing to his mentorship, I could develop research and collaborations in corneal biomechanics or intraocular lens biomaterials as clinical issues related to glistenings. I could also perform a multi-centre clinical trial on intraoperative floppy iris syndrome in collaboration with Dr David Chang from USA and most importantly, he strongly supported me to develop research in the field of femtosecond laser cataract surgery.

His support was also decisive to design and set up the FEMCAT trial, which aimed to compare visual and anatomical outcomes between phacoemulsification cataract surgery and femtosecond laser surgery. Before passing away, he provided very wise advice to lead this multicentre trial from the initial to the final steps of the process.

Mentorship is a continuous process, it is our duty to provide similar advice to the following generations of ophthalmologists in order to provide the best research and care in ophthalmology.