by Dr. Trista Felty
One of the biggest assets I have had as I pursued an orthodontic career and started a practice, has been the mentors I have found along the way. My very first mentor was my own orthodontist. He saw my interest in my treatment and took the time to explain the detailed process of orthodontics. He also invited me to his office when I was in high school to learn more about the profession and gave me the first glimpse into my own future career. Through dental school and orthodontic residency, I have been fortunate to find mentors to not only guide and shape me as a student, but with whom I have been able to remain in contact and still rely on for assistance and advice. Here are a few pieces of my own advice on mentorship:
Be proactive. Mentorships do not develop randomly; you have to actively seek out mentors in areas of your life where you feel they would be most beneficial. Most mentors won’t seek out a mentee – they want someone who is interested, takes initiative, and asks for help and guidance. Also, keep in mind that not every person will be a perfect fit to be your mentor. Spend some time seeking out someone who not only has the knowledge you desire, but also is a fit for your personality and needs. Mentorship also varies in terms of time. The mentor you had in dental school may no longer provide the guidance you require while starting a practice, and you should continually evaluate your future plans to see the areas where you may need to develop new mentors. Some mentors may provide guidance in just one specific area and are considered short-term mentors, while others may be able to assist you in various aspects of your life and become a more long-term commitment. 
Mentorship is a two-way street. Don’t expect your mentor to just give you all the answers. Sure, it would be easy for them to give you a quick fix to help you solve a problem; but a mentor should help you cultivate yourself, making you better able to handle the problems and challenges that arise in the future. Yes, it requires time and effort to build a valuable relationship, but the benefits will be well worth it. One of the significant things about mentorship is that both parties benefit from a great relationship. My business partner and I are constantly learning new and useful lessons from each other at the office. While he has years of experience in practice management and the business side of things, I can keep him updated on the newer technologies that are quickly changing the field of orthodontics. 
Find mentors outside of orthodontics too.  We all know that orthodontics is only a small part of what we do every day. Most of us will have to run a practice, supervise staff, plan for retirement, make investments and manage families, just to name a few things. Find areas where you feel you have the most room to grow, and look for a mentor in that field as well. Mentorships can benefit all aspects of our lives, not just our careers, so you may find yourself with multiple mentors at any given time.
Mentorship has been shown to have long lasting benefits, both professionally and personally. Once you have identified an area where you would like mentorship, and have found someone who emulates the values you admire, it is often helpful to talk about the expectations of the relationship in advance. This can range from the amount of communication you will have, if you will meet in person or online, what you intend to get out of the mentorship, the time commitment you are prepared to give, and so on. With technology, mentors can live almost anywhere and still be in touch quickly when needed. As you begin your search for a mentor, consider the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) as a resource. The AAO offers an online mentoring program to help facilitate the formation of these important relationships. The program allows you to search for and refine potential matches with numerous filters such as: areas and topics in which you would like guidance, location, similar practice modalities or treatment philosophies.

To learn more about the AAO Mentoring Program and request to join, visit
Dr. Trista Felty of Abbotsford, British Columbia is a Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists (PCSO) representative to the AAO’s Council on New and Younger Members (CONYM). She can be reached at