Mentoring in a Global Palliative Care Training Program – Reflections

Categories: Care, Education, and People & Places.

The Fellowship in Palliative Care is a global training initiative operated collaboratively by four institutions, three located in the global south and one in the north.

This programme has equipped over 600 individuals across more than 50 countries with essential knowledge and skills in organizing and running palliative care services in their regions.

What sets this programme apart is its integrated mentorship component, where many successful trainees choose to remain and guide incoming participants.

This dynamic interaction between mentors and trainees from diverse cultural backgrounds elevates the exchange and creation of knowledge to an entirely new level.

     Guida da Ponte from Portugal,

    Nicholas Jennings from Trinidad and Tobago,

    and Afolabi Ohunakin from Nigeria reflect on this enriching experience.

“What does a Portuguese, Trinidadian and Nigerian have in common? Well, at the first glance, maybe nothing at all, but given a second look, we are curious and share the interest for Palliative Care, for mentoring, and we are free souls.

We all met in the context of the Fellowship in Palliative Care, but at different times and in different forms – in person before the pandemic, and virtually during it.

The common element of being a mentor in the fellowship connected us like a chain that didn´t break during the last two years.

We, as human beings who are relational by nature, soon started to have our own meetings to discuss daily difficulties as mentors, to talk about what it means to be a mentor, to brainstorm our own mentorship skills and styles, and to plan projects.

Two questions arose:

  1. Why did we decide to be mentors and
  2. Why did we naturally start to hold our meetings?

Why did we decide to be mentors?

Becoming mentors was an expression of our inner selves and our human values. Participating in the fellowship was a gift and we each felt the urge to show our gratitude by reciprocating.

Also, we felt the necessity of maintaining the connection with the fellowship.

This was a subconscious attempt to manage our existential isolation. There is also a scientific motivation – or, as Nietzsche would say: ‘the will for power.’

The programme was one of the best experiences of our academic life – in terms of knowledge gained and cultural diversity experienced – and becoming mentors enables us to have an ongoing connection, both real and emotional.

In our daily lives we are “alone”, in our work and in our community – in the end, we are alone – and globalization showed us a way to drive our minds and souls to another level of commitment.

 Why did we naturally start to hold our meetings?

As we previously said, human beings are relational by nature and internet connection isn´t ideal when compared to the “real” deal.

However, it allowed us to share and discover what we have in common.

We are restless souls; we question life, and we question why. We don´t expect straight forward responses, instead, we expect discussion and brainstorming.

Alone we felt an existential boredom, and our drive to connect was also a search for (more) meaning. The human being has the capacity to desire to achieve more, and Man has the capacity for reflection (not thinking itself, but reflection).

We strive for happiness that comes in many forms – love, connection, goals accomplished, and fulfilling our roles in society

As a result, we decided that geographic distance need not isolate our minds, so we joined efforts to develop projects with the common topic that links us together – “Fellowship in Palliative Care”.

We have dedicated an hour a week over the last year for discussions about mentoring; how it relates to the fellowship vis-à-vis the development of Palliative Care; how to improve ourselves; how we can help to improve the programme, and other Palliative Care topics of shared interest.

Humour has been central to our conversations, and we believe it to be a key element to being successful mentors. Humour is one of the sources of meaning in life because when we laugh we feel happiness. Using humour, we named our group “Magic Mentors”, using a paradox, because we are normal people, in our normal lives, but with “magic” ideas

During these two years of connection, we brought others into our group to discuss hot topics. We also organised meetings, courses and lectures and we are also designing and putting in practice some studies.

Our experience shows us that, for our restless souls, sharing an interest in common – Palliative Care – allied with the opportunity to connect – the Fellowship of Palliative Care – and the will to explore meaning in face of existential boredom are, the key factors provoking us to come together to build a project.

Towards the end, what the Portuguese, Trinidadian, and Nigerian all have in common, as individuals in the world, is the desire to aspire to a life with meaning.

We want to improve ourselves, to contribute to our world, leaving a footprint in this journey!

In this route, we have the privilege of unconditional support of the “mentor of all mentors”: Dr. Suresh Kumar.

So, we want to take this journey to the next level by establishing a global platform for discussion of hot topics in Palliative Care, a public health approach to palliative care, cultural impacts, meaning in life and death…

Palliative Care is everybody’s business, as Palliative Care is good health, good death and good grief.

The Fellowship in Palliative Care is an online training programme run jointly by Institute of Palliative Medicine (India), St Christopher’s Hospice (United Kingdom), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (Bangladesh) and Sanjeevan Palliative Care Project (India). Contact for details of the programme

Guida da Ponte, MD, PhD, Psychiatrist, Portugal

Nicholas Jennings, PhD, Researcher, Trinidad and Tobago

Afolabi Ohunakin, MD, FWACP, Family Medicine, Nigeria




  1. It has been enlightening as well as enriching to read this post. Having worked in palliative cancer care in India way back in late eighties until late 2006, every statement and every observation makes sense. The online fellowship appears a great offer to me to revive my learning and add-on the developments in the interim. Kudos to you all in the mentoring for this innovation.

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