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Welcome to The Medicine Mentors interview series. Our mission is to create a platform for top physician mentors to share key insights, traits and best practices based on their experiences to guide medical students and residents.

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Nov 17, 2020

Kathlyn Fletcher, MD, MA, is a Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine, and the Director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Fletcher completed her medical school from University of Chicago and her residency in Internal Medicine from University of Chicago Hospitals. She then was a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan. Dr. Fletcher has held a number of leadership positions including Section Chief of General Internal Medicine, and Director of Hospital medicine at Milwaukee VA Medical Center. Dr. Fletcher is active in a number of local and national bodies including the Society of General Internal Medicine and the Society of Hospital medicine, and is a recipient of numerous teaching and leadership awards including the 2013 Helen Dickie Woman Physician of the Year by Wisconsin State ACP, and the National Award for Scholarship in medical Education from the Society of General Internal Medicine.

After reading Kim Scott’s book, Radical Candor, Dr. Kathlyn Fletcher reframed her perspective on giving feedback. As someone who had previously been hesitant about telling students they needed to do better, Dr. Fletcher realized that to encourage others to improve is to truly care about them. Since then, Dr. Fletcher practices giving feedback in real time for her students and mentees. She takes advantage of small coaching moments that occur throughout the day as she guides her students. And while she gives positive feedback as much as possible, she recognizes that in order for it to resonate, she has a responsibility to create a safe environment for her learners. Dr. Fletcher recognizes how important it is for her students to be continually improving in order to reach the next level of competency, and she prioritizes leading with warmth, positivity, and encouragement.

Pearls of Wisdom:

1. Know the three C’s: Competence, character, and caring. In medicine, caring is all about the other person, and we need to pay more attention to care especially in a time of our life where it can be easy to be selfish.
2. Active feedback and encouragement—in real time—is the best way to not only improve as a physician, but it’s a way for mentors to show mentees that they care about their growth. We also gain more trust when we are actively giving feedback.
3. By the nature of our profession, we are constantly living on the edge of burnout—a problem that is not likely to ever go away. So we have to learn how to deal with it proactively: This is where reflective writing, collegiality, and genuine personal interactions come in.
4. At the end of the day, medicine is a service industry. When we remember that our job is to serve others in their sometimes darkest moments, we will recenter with our purpose.

Click here to read words of Hope, Character & Resilience from the monthly newsletter at The Kern Institute at the Medical College of Wisconsin.