Thank you picture

© woodleywonderworks

None of us would be where we are today, if it weren’t for the people that have helped us along the way. During this holiday season we thought it would be appropriate to discuss a happy topic: how to thank your mentors.  The fine people who have taught and guided us over the years – helping us become the physicians we have become. This month in the MEdIC series, we present the case of Kara and Sundeep, two residents who are not sure how to go about thanking their mentors.

The Concept

Inspired by the Harvard Business Review Cases and led by Dr. Teresa Chan (@TChanMD) and Dr. Brent Thoma (@Brent_Thoma), the Medical Education In Cases (MEdIC) series puts difficult medical education cases under a microscope. On the fourth Friday of the month, we will pose a challenging hypothetical dilemma, moderate a discussion on potential approaches, and recruit medical education experts to provide “Gold Standard” responses. Cases and responses will be made available for download in pdf format – feel free to use them!

If you’re a medical educator with a pedagogical problem, we want to get you a MEdIC. Send us your most difficult dilemmas (guidelines) and help the rest of us bring our teaching game to the next level.

The Case

Case written by Dr. Brent Thoma

‘Twas the fortnight before Christmas…

Sundeep, a junior emergency medicine resident at A.W. Esome Hospital, walked into the resident lounge just as Kara, one of the senior residents, was closing a browser tab that read “”. “Sneaking in a bit of holiday shopping?” he asked.

Kara looked quite pensive as she responded “No. It’s just that Dr. Melden has been so helpful to me over the past few years. There’s no way I would have found my niche or gotten involved with that research project if it wasn’t for him – not to mention all of his amazing teaching and exam prep.”

“And what, exactly, does that have to do with the Black Friday sales?” he asked.

“Well… I want to thank him, but I’m really not sure how. I nominated him for that mentorship award last month but he didn’t get it. I was thinking about getting him something small and thoughtful, but I’m not even sure if it’s appropriate to get him a present.”

“Yeah, I’ve never really thought about that before. I guess I should be doing a better job of thanking all of the people that have helped me out along the way. Buying him something almost seems silly though – if he wanted something he’d have it already, wouldn’t he?” Sundeep asked.

Kara sighed as she responded, “I guess. And he always says that he is just happy to see me succeed, but I wish there was an easier way for me to let him know how much I appreciate everything that he has done for me over the years.”

Questions for Discussion

  1. How would you advise Kara to thank her mentor?
  2. Is it appropriate to give your mentors gifts? If so, what would be too much?
  3. What is the most memorable way that you have been thanked by one of your protégés or mentees? Why?

We look forward to hearing your thoughts over the week (December 27, 2013-January 3, 2014).  Join us online for a blog-based discussion (take a look at the comments below), or tweet us (@TChanMD or @Brent_Thoma) with your thoughts.

Weekly Wrap Up

As always, we will post the expert responses and a curated commentary derived from the community responses one week after the case was published. Our respondents for this case will be:

  • Dr. Jonathan Sherbino, Associate Professor at McMaster University and Clinical Educator for the Royal College of Physicians an Surgeons of Canada; Editor-in-Chief of the ICEnet blog
  • Dr. Michelle Lin, Associate Professor at University of California, San Francisco and Editor-in-Chief of Academic Life in Emergency Medicine

Next week, you’ll be able to click here to go to the Expert Responses and Curated Community Commentary to this case (To be posted on January 3, 2014).

UPDATE (Jan. 3, 2014):  The Expert Responses and Curated Community Commentary (CCC) are now available here.  If you would like to respond to the case, please feel free to leave a comment below still.  New comments shall no longer be eligible for inclusion into our wrap-up CCC however since the write up was generated on Jan 3, 2014.


All characters in this case are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  Also, as always, we will generate a curated community commentary based on your participation below and on Twitter.  We will try to attribute names, but if you choose to comment anonymously, you will be referred to as your pseudonym in our writing.

Brent Thoma, MD MA
ALiEM Associate Editor
Emergency Medicine Research Director at the University of Saskatchewan
Editor/Author at
Brent Thoma, MD MA