The American Medical Student Association’s new program connects students with mentors who can help guide them through the rigors of medical school.
Medical school exerts its toll on students—financially, physically, and psychologically. So when they seek outside help navigating these turbulent waters, the last thing these students need is added pressure. The American Medical Student Association, being keenly aware of this, has launched a mentorship program for that very purpose.
“We tried to just make it easy,” said Jamie Thayer Scates, chief of staff for AMSA. “We tried to create something that’s simple and obvious.” She said it became clear to AMSA, through surveying and interacting with members at events, that a mentorship program was needed. Member feedback also showed that students had different reasons for seeking mentorship. Some expressed a desire to gain a new perspective by connecting with someone outside of their school, while others wanted a like-minded colleague who could sympathize with their personal situation.
One would naturally assume that the demand would exceed the supply, leaving more students seeking mentors than there are mentors available to satiate the need. Not so, according to Scates. Physicians, known for having incredibly demanding work schedules, were eager to participate. While she set a goal of recruiting at least 30 to 50 mentors prior to launch, it didn’t take long to eclipse those numbers.
Diversity also is a key objective for AMSA as it recruits mentors into its program. “Having a diverse platform of mentors is very important,” Scates said. Factors such as gender, age, location, and experience level are all taken into account. Positions, for example, are significant because some students might prefer to be mentored by someone who is still in residency and not as far along in their career. Diverse representation with regard to specialties is a foremost concern.
Prior to being added to the program, all mentors go through a brief training period to help orient those who may not yet be fully comfortable serving in a mentorship capacity. While AMSA outlines guidelines, expectations, and best practices, it strives to be balanced in its approach. The aim is to create a comfortable, structured environment that isn’t too formal or restrictive. “We do want those relationships to also develop organically,” Scates said.
The mentor base and number of students joining the program is growing, according to Scates. Part of that success is due to AMSA’s partnership with for[MD], a physician collaboration network, which has helped with recruitment. Early on in the program’s development, AMSA was aided by its advocacy network and alumni who were contacted about the possibility of serving as mentors.
While AMSA will make adjustments as necessary to respond to the ever-changing needs and demands of its members, the goal of the program will remain the same. “We want to eliminate some anxiety and apprehension,” Scates said. “We don’t want them to feel like they are alone.” From coping with the loss of their first patient to getting a place in a residency program, each step provides an opportunity for students to form enduring bonds with their mentors. If students leave the program with a positive experience, feeling that it has helped them to overcome the hurdles in their lives, Scates said AMSA will have succeeded in its mission.