Evaluation of a Text-Based Peer Mentorship Program for Head and Neck Oncologic/Microvascular Surgeons

Presentation: A017
Topic: Education / Care Delivery
Type: Poster
Authors: Rusha Patel, MD, FACS1; Alexandra Kejner, MD, FACS2; Caitlin McMullen, MD3
Institution(s): 1Oklahoma University; 2University of Kentucky; 3Moffitt Cancer Center


Burnout has been previously identified in head and neck oncology/microvascular surgeons (HNMVS).  Among long hours and patient care demands, lack of mentorship was identified as one of the most significant contributing factors.  Mentorship programs have been found to be protective, however, are not widely utilized. A prior grassroots text-based mentorship group had garnered anecdotal success.  Thus, we proposed that a text-based peer mentorship program can help augment formal mentorship paradigms and provide a venue for clinical, personal, and career growth.

Methods: With approval from the American Head and Neck Society Mentorship Committee and using the prior mentorship group as a model, we surveyed the AHNS membership for interested parties.  From these volunteers, 4 groups were formed of similar size.  Participants were assigned to groups randomizing those who were early career (< 5 years in practice) with more senior members.  Texts from pilot groups were analyzed. Questions were categorized by content, number of and time to responses, and presence of a resolution to the question. A survey was administered to participants of all groups to assess their participation and experiences with the platforms. Results were compared between pilot groups and established groups.

Results: A total of 49 participants were enrolled in the pilot groups. Member attrition resulted in a final enrollment of 42 participants at 2 years. Group longevity ranged from 5 months - 2 years. The majority of questions involved reconstruction (58%). Only 2 questions (5.4%) went unanswered. The average time to first response was 76.8 minutes, with a median time of 12 minutes. There were > 2 responses were received on average for each new question. Pilot group survey data showed 3 (38%) of respondents felt participation changed practice patterns, and 1 (12%) formed a research collaboration. In contrast, survey results for established mentor groups showed 14 (82%) felt participation changed their practice patterns, 11 participants (65%) formed research collaborations, 10 (59%) had publications, and 4 (24%) had national presentations arise from their participation. The primary factors in pilot group respondents limiting participation were ‘unfamiliarity with participants’ and the ‘ability to obtain support elsewhere’. Having an in-person meeting of the group was felt to be beneficial by 5 (63%) of pilot group respondents and 9 (53%) of established mentor group respondents.

Conclusions: Text-based peer mentorship is a novel method of supporting surgeons with the advantages of timely access to peers for clinical concerns and research collaboration. Preliminary data from pilot text-based mentorship groups shows that asked questions had a high response rate, quick time to answer, and multiple responses. Additionally, data from established text-based mentorship groups shows that participation positively impacted clinical practice and the majority of participants were able to form productive research collaborations. In-person introductions can help expand participant familiarity and allow greater participation among new groups. Text-based peer mentorship should continue to be explored as a method to support HNMVS during their careers.