Published: October 24, 2021

Mentors and Mentees: Beyond U.S. Borders — Our International Collaborations

The Resident Reviewer Development Program (RRDP) operates as part of the AAO-HNSF’s peer-reviewed journal Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery and has grown since its inception in 2016.

Rrdp Map WebThe Resident Reviewer Development Program (RRDP) operates as part of the AAO-HNSF’s peer-reviewed journal Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery and has grown since its inception in 2016. It was the product of efforts by then-Deputy Editor Cecelia E. Schmalbach, MD, MS, and Editor in Chief John H. Krouse, MD, PhD, MBA. Current Deputy Editor Jennifer J. Shin, MD, SM, further cultivated the RRDP to help make the RRDP the success it is today.

Jennifer J. Shin, MD, SMJennifer J. Shin, MD, SMThe program pairs PGY-3 and PGY-4 residents with mentors who are seasoned journal reviewers. The mentors guide the residents through the peer review process until the residents successfully review a manuscript on their own. Residents then graduate from the program and join the journal’s reviewer pool. 

For the RRDP class that began in 2021, Dr. Shin worked with members of the journal’s International Editorial Board to expand the program’s reach to international residents and to produce a peer review curriculum for the international community and RRDP participants. Canadian residents have been a mainstay in the program, but RRDP participants also come from and attended medical school in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Australia, and Mexico. Dr. Shin praises the value of having international mentees. 

“They are a wonderful addition to our program,” she noted. “They bring a unique viewpoint and diversify our perspectives, particularly on topics such as COVID and equity.”

At the heart of the RRDP is mentorship, a touchstone in medical education in the United States. And while RRDP participants—regardless of home country—extol the extraordinary value of their RRDP mentors, the mentoring experienced by some is particularly prized. 

Stefania Goncalves, MDStefania Goncalves, MD“There was not a defined mentorship structure in my medical school,” said Stefania Goncalves, MD, a PGY-5 at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and RRDP graduate. That is not to say she went without the guidance of those with more knowledge and experience at her medical school in Caracas, Venezuela. “My mentors found me while I was doing clinical rotations,” she explained. “They were able to identify my passion for otolaryngology and shaped my path to where I am today, giving me the best advice possible and connecting me with leaders in the field around the world.” 

Ahmed A. Al-Sayed, MBBSAhmed A. Al-Sayed, MBBSAhmed A. Al-Sayed, MBBS, followed a path similar to Dr. Goncalves. Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, where he also attended medical school, Dr. Al-Sayed completed his residency in Canada and continues his studies in the U.S. While in the RRDP—Dr. Al-Sayed is now a program graduate—he found that “there was a bit of learning curve at first, but I managed to overcome many of the challenges with the help of my mentor.” The crucial role of his RRDP mentor was not unlike the role of mentors at his medical school. In Saudi Arabian culture, mentorship is very important. “The role of a mentor is indispensable,” he explained. “It has implications on the learning experience, career choices, research productivity, academic promotion, and job opportunities.”

Adriana Ortiz, MDAdriana Ortiz, MDCurrent RRDP participant Adriana Ortiz, MD, and recent program graduate Ramón Albavera, MD, shared their experiences with mentorship in Mexico. Dr. Ortiz, a resident at the University of Guadalajara, commented on the “good mentorship” at her institution. Dr. Albavera, who is training at Hospital De Especialidades of the Centro Médico Nacional SXXI in Mexico City, explained, “We work with a different mentor every month, learning from that mentor about patient care and surgery—each doctor has different surgical techniques.”

Ramón Albavera, MDRamón Albavera, MDSara Rahavi-Ezabadi, MD, MPH, is another RRDP graduate who, like Dr. Goncalves, also became a successful reviewer for the journal. Shortly after she graduated from the RRDP she completed her residency at Tehran University of Medical Sciences and joined the faculty there. She credits the RRDP with improving her research writing. “The RRDP helped me to learn how to comprehensively review an article and to identify its strengths and weaknesses. Becoming a better reviewer helped me to become a better author.” Drs. Ortiz and Albavera also find value in applying the different components of the peer review process to other areas of their training. As Dr. Ortiz noted, “I have learned a lot about statistics and clinical investigation methodology.” And for Dr. Albavera, “The RRDP has been useful for me this year, especially since I am working on my thesis and clinical investigation projects.”

Sara Rahavi-Ezabadi, MD, MPHSara Rahavi-Ezabadi, MD, MPHThoughts on and experiences with mentorship also inform how the program’s international mentors guide their residents. Current program mentors come from Canada, Mexico, Taiwan, Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia. Marco A. Figueroa, MD; Ming Yann Lim, MBBS, MRCS, DOHNS, MMed, FAMS; and Hsin-Ching Lin, MD, who are esteemed specialists in their countries and members of Otolaryngology–Head and Surgery’s International Editorial Board, have unique insights. 

Marco A. Figueroa, MDMarco A. Figueroa, MDDr. Figueroa, of Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social in Mexico City, firmly believes that mentorship “is of paramount importance in the training of future generations in otolaryngology, not only in Mexico but worldwide.” He also sees value in how mentorship can become a global endeavor with tremendous benefits for patients. “Invite [students] to learn in positions at other schools, national and international,” he explained, “to form comprehensive clinical and research points of view.”

Hsin-Ching Lin, MDHsin-Ching Lin, MDAt his hospital, Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, in Taiwan, Prof. Lin noted, “Our fellows and residents in otolaryngology have one-on-one mentors during the entirety of their training program.” But beyond mentors being “in charge of caring for the mentee’s learning progress and safety,” mentors also closely attend to their mentees’ well-being. In Singapore, “mentorship is central to otolaryngology … an important process by which doctors get trained,” according to Dr. Lim, who works at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, a public institution. “The mentorship is a collective one,” he explained, “where the faculty is responsible for the clinical and surgical training of the resident. But we also appoint mentors to individually guide residents during the time that they rotate to our hospital. So, there is both collective and individual mentorship, which is great for the residents!”

Ming Yann Lim MBBS, MRCS, DOHNS, MMed, FAMSMing Yann Lim
And does academic medicine mentorship intersect with the dual task of performing a high-quality review and teaching the peer review process? “My experience in the RRDP is really unique and totally different from my other experiences of teaching students,” said Prof. Lin. He must unite his proven ability to write valuable reviews for the journal’s editors with an ability to offer “an impressive and informative learning experience” for his mentees. Dr. Lim offers similar insight: “As I embarked on this journey with the residents, I have learned that it is an education process for me too. The whole program underlines the fact that, as in any mentorship program, both the mentor and the mentee are on a learning journey together.” 

At times, teaching the peer review process is complicated by a resident not having the analytical skills necessary to produce a good review. “What does one do in this instance?” considered Dr. Lim. “It is a situation that demands a careful balance of considerations.” Yet despite such obstacles, Dr. Lim knows he must “be forthcoming and constructive in my feedback to the resident … yet remain encouraging.”

Alba Pérez, MDAlba Pérez, MDSuch encouragement from her mentor has kept Alba Pérez, MD, a resident at University of Guadalajara, steadily progressing through the program. “So far my experience in the program has been really satisfying and perhaps a little scary,” she said. She fears giving an unfavorable review to an article that doesn’t deserve it. “But I guess that’s part of the program”, she continued, “to learn to feel confident in my work.” This sentiment underscores the meaning of mentorship in the RRDP. 

International engagement clearly makes the RRDP stronger. “Working together with our international community is a unique educational opportunity for mentors and mentees alike,” said Dr. Shin. “The ideas generated with regard education—for example, our new didactic curriculum—are more replete because the sessions are based on ideas shared from across the globe.”

Mentorship in the RRDP and Beyond

As Sara Rahavi-Ezabadi, MD, MPH, progressed through the Resident Reviewer Development Program (RRDP), she quickly realized she struck gold with her mentor, Hsin-Ching Lin, MD. This is not uncommon for many program participants—RRDP mentors embody the gold standard. 

As Deputy Editor Jennifer Shin, MD, SM, explained, “Our editorial work through the journal allows us to identify our best reviewers—both in content and timeliness. We also have an opportunity to work together with them to identify professionalism in interactions and a commitment to mentorship.” Like his fellow RRDP mentors, Prof. Lin is committed.

“It was my great honor to be paired with Prof. Lin,” said Dr. Rahavi- Ezabadi. Not only did Prof. Lin help Dr. Rahavi-Ezabadi hone her reviewing skills, but his professional path provided inspiration for her own. 

As a recently installed assistant professor at Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Dr. Rahavi-Ezabadi is pursuing certain lines of research, one with the assistance of Prof. Lin. “She asked me to supervise her new study proposal,” he said. “To see her successful graduation from the RRDP was the most joyful part for me.”

In addition to engaging in research together, there is also talk between the two of hosting one another at their respective hospitals in their respective countries. “The RRDP was a great opportunity for me. It paved my way, gave me great mentor, and provided me with great relationships,” said Dr. Rahavi-Ezabadi.

International Community Curriculum: Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Journal

Introduction and Approach to Peer Review for Clinicians
Faculty: Erika Celis-Aguilar, MD
, Professor, Department of Otolaryngology and Neurotology, Center of Research and Teaching in Health Sciences, Civil Hospital of Culiacán, Autonomous University of Sinaloa, Mexico; Jennifer J. Shin, MD, SM, Vice Chair for Academic Affairs at Longwood, Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Harvard Medical School; Associate Chair for Faculty Development, Department of Surgery.

International Perspective on Publishing and Avoiding Predatory Journals
FacultyJose Florencio Lapeña, MA, MD, Professor, Department of Otolaryngology, University of the Philippines Manila College of Medicine; Attending Otolaryngologist, Philippine General Hospital

Key Concepts in Statistics
FacultyKosuke Kawai, ScD, Senior Biostatistician and Epidemiologist, Department of Otolaryngology, Boston Children’s Hospital; Assistant Professor, Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Harvard Medical School

To access the recorded presentations, go to

More from November 2021 – Vol. 40, No. 10