Reflections on the loss of mentors

Lara Varpio*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a special category of mentor: the person who supports you as much as they support your career. They offer a unique relationship that is rich and powerful. Researchers have tried to better understand this relationship and the other varieties of mentoring relationships. But there is a significant gap in that research: we don’t talk about the experience of the sudden loss of a mentor. Sometimes mentoring relationships end—especially if the mentoring was in support of specific goals, learning objectives, or when the relationship simply no longer fits the needs of the mentor or the mentee. But sometimes disease, tragic accidents, or other powers beyond our control intervene; suddenly, relationships with important mentors are simply gone. How do we navigate these losses? In this piece, I reflect on the most powerful mentorship relationships, on the loss thereof, and on the challenges of mourning lost mentors. It celebrates mentors who invest in others, who put we ahead of me. This elegy is for Dr. Joanna Bates and Dr. Meridith Marks—two women who embodied the highest qualities of mentorship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-333
Number of pages5
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Elegy
  • Loss
  • Mentorship


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