Coming from a public school where nearly a third of my classmates did not graduate, I would not be where I am today if not for my family and mentors. And surprisingly, many of my mentors were not physicians. One was a flute teacher, who cared as much about my health and well-being as she did about my performance. Another was a chemistry teacher, who always asked about my family in between classes and encouraged me, hand in hand, throughout my father’s illness. My influences also include childhood friends, co-workers, professors, orphaned children and single mothers I met on missions abroad, and my students and mentees.All of them have taught me how impactful lasting relationships can be in helping us discover our true passion in life.
At Mayo Medical School (MMS), I was fortunate to meet several others who shared my passion in mentorship and began a pilot program for the University of Minnesota Rochester (UMR) pre-medical students called MMS-UMR Pre-medical Mentorship Program (MMP). We have 21 pre-medical students in the program, and they represent an incredibly diverse group of cultures, interests, and perspectives. MMP entails a multi-disciplinary approach comprised of student-run workshops (e.g., resume building, diversity discussion, surgical and clinical simulations), 1:1 pairing with a medical student mentor, community service projects, career guidance, and research. Looking back, it is simply phenomenal how quickly people came together to voluntarily contribute to this melting pot of adventure and innovation.
More important than the simple building of skills is gaining insight and reflecting upon our experiences to develop values and personal traits that can carry us through future obstacles. No matter how resourceful textbooks and the internet can be, they cannot teach us everything. We learn the most through stories shared over coffee, lessons learned over mistakes, helping hands in difficult times, and selfless actions of forgiveness and understanding. It is through those experiences that we become empowered to be true to ourselves and explore beyond our previously set limits. MMP strives to provide that personal interaction and perpetual sharing of knowledge and experiences.
My personal hope for MMP is not to make a physician out of every mentee. My goal is to help them discover what they are truly passionate about through nurturing relationships with mentors in the field and to help them avoid conforming to external pressures and expectations. There are an infinite number of ways to help others because everyone carries within them a unique set of ideas and skills. Rather than putting the mentees through a cookie cutter process to form a “perfect medical school applicant,” I would be happier if they left the program with even more direction, ideas, and options for the future.
Next time you sit down for a meal or coffee during a busy day, consider sharing stories and learning from some new company. Every relationship that begins with good food can never be too bad.
Michelle is a 2nd year medical student from Honolulu, HI. She is interested in reconstructive surgery, global medicine, and education.