Canadian Medical Association

Dr. Mamta Gautam

Ottawa psychiatrist’s love of mentoring helps create female leaders in medicine

Mentoring is powerful. Just ask Dr. Mamta Gautam.

When she was a medical student, she recalls the head of psychiatry at the hospital where she trained inviting students to his home, where he offered advice and talked candidly about his own medical career.

“I remember thinking how welcoming that was, and I think particularly for me — a young medical student away from home — it was very meaningful, and something I wanted to pass on.”

After Dr. Gautam became a psychiatrist herself, she did just that, starting with a small group of medical students at the University of Ottawa.

“I would have them over to my home every month or so. We’d just make sure they had a home-cooked meal and a chance informally to sit and chat and ask questions.”

As her career progressed, Dr. Gautam’s passion for mentoring became more formal.

As a board member at the Ontario Psychiatric Association, she created and launched a peer mentoring program. She later adapted it for use at the Canadian Psychiatric Association.

Through her company, Peak MD, she has established leadership and mentoring programs at several medical women’s organizations, including the Federation of Medical Women of Canada and Canadian Women in Medicine. Her aim is to help female colleagues develop the skills, strengths and confidence to take on executive positions in medicine.

“We're seeing greater numbers of women in medicine, but there's still a huge gap between the number who’ve actually achieved leadership roles.”

Dr. Gautam is one of those leaders, in the area of physician health and wellness. Back in the 1990s, when she started her practice, physician wellness centred around treating doctors with addictions. Over the past two decades, Dr. Gautam has helped expand the scope of physician wellness to include stress, burnout, depression and anxiety disorder.

Last year, she presented at the first-ever Canadian Women in Medicine Wellness Conference in Ottawa, speaking to more than 600 female physicians. Dr. Gautam is proud she’s been able to raise awareness about physician health and help change the stigma.

“We now see widespread acknowledgement of the scope of the problem and the need to address it more proactively. It’s very satisfying to see those efforts continue.”

Dr. Mamta Gautam is receiving the May Cohen Award for Women Mentors for encouraging and supporting mentees in career and leadership development.