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J Surg Educ. 2015 Mar-Apr;72(2):330-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2014.08.009. Epub 2014 Sep 26.

The role of gender and distance mentoring in the surgical education research fellowship.

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Department of Surgery, Owensboro Health, Owensboro, Kentucky; Department of Surgery, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky. Electronic address:
Department of Surgery, University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont.
Department of Surgery, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska.



The nature of the mentor-mentee relationship is important in the pursuit of successful research projects. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the mentor-mentee relationships in the Surgical Education Research Fellowship (SERF) based on gender and geographical distances regarding program completion. We hypothesize that there are no differences for SERF program completion rates based on gender pairs and distances between pairs.


This was a retrospective study from 2006 to 2011. Mentor-mentee rosters were retrospectively reviewed for program completion, demographics, and PubMeD indexing. Time zone differences and geographic distances between pairs were found with online applications. Chi-square tests were used for categorical variables and nonparametric statistics were carried out using α = 0.05.


Of the 82 individuals accepted into the SERF program, 43 (52%) completed the SERF program during the study period. There were no differences in program completion rates based on fellow gender and gender pairing (all p > 0.05). Different-gender pairs that completed the program (n = 17) were indexed more frequently on PubMed than same-gender pairs that completed the program (n = 24) (41% vs 12%, p = 0.04). There were no differences in program completion based on time zone differences (p = 0.20). The median distance between pairs completing the program (n = 35) was greater than that for pairs not completing the program (n = 36) (1741 km [IQR: 895-3117 km] vs 991 km [IQR: 676-2601 km]; p = 0.03).


Completion of the SERF program was independent of mentor-mentee gender pairs and time zone differences. There was greater geographical distance separating mentor-mentee pairs that completed the SERF program compared with pairs that did not complete the program. Distance mentoring is a successful and crucial element of the SERF program.


Association for Surgical Education; Interpersonal and Communication Skills; Professionalism; Surgical Education Research Fellowship (SERF); distance mentoring; mentee; mentor; surgery

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