From High School to Med School: Serving as a Med Mentor

uvmmedicine blogger Kristen Bartlett '19
uvmmedicine blogger Kristen Bartlett ’19

I’ve always had a passion for teaching. Though in terms of career path I chose a somewhat indirect application of this interest, I feel that education is inherent in the role that a physician plays in his or her patients’ lives. Over the years, I’ve held various mentorship positions and teaching roles in hopes of relaying at least some portion of the incredible wisdom and guidance that I have received throughout my life from those who have served as role models and mentors for me. Thus, when perusing the College of Medicine list of Student Interest Group offerings, the Med Mentors Student Interest Group immediately jumped out at me. Among other activities the group coordinates for local high schools throughout the year, my main focus with the program has been to mentor an Essex High School student who is completing a STEM Academy Program Senior Capstone Project. This project is geared toward highly motivated high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in a health care field. The goal of the project is for students to conduct research on the psychosocial and pathological aspects of a pediatric disease. They are asked to explore current scientific literature, as well as shadow a physician considered an expert in the field of the chosen disease. My role in all of this is to provide support and guidance for my mentee, from the first steps of research to preparing for the final presentation of her findings to middle school classes.

My mentee is clearly a driven individual, and as such has stayed on track with her project from the start, asking questions and providing drafts of papers and presentations well before the assigned “due date.” With the demands of my first year medical school classes, this has definitely made my mentorship a pretty stress-free one. Nonetheless, I have enjoyed sharing information and advice with my mentee when she reaches out. I try to put myself in her shoes – what level of knowledge did I have on these topics as a high school senior? What was my proficiency in scientific research like? Whatever information I provide, she takes it and runs with it! Her dedication clearly paid off when she and other students in the program presented their projects to the Med Mentors group in January. She was calm and confident, and provided the group with a cohesive presentation on type I diabetes, including the epidemiology and pathology of the disease, its treatment and its connection to her life.

Perhaps my favorite part of the program has been the opportunity to shadow a physician with my mentee. As her topic of choice is type I diabetes, we shadowed Dr. Matthew Gilbert, an endocrinologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Dr. Gilbert was incredibly accommodating of our questions, as were his patients when we were present during their exams. He went as far to include us in initial impressions, disease mechanisms and proposed treatment plans for each patient, which was a great test of knowledge application for me after six months of medical school. It’s safe to say that we both got a great deal of enjoyment out of the physician shadow portion of the project!

I hope to continue to serve in a teaching capacity for the remainder of my medical career, as I know this skill will help me work toward positive health outcomes with my future patients.  Med Mentors has served as a great venue for me to continue to teach and mentor while a med student, and it’s been gratifying to see my mentee meet her goals.

Read more about the recent Med Mentors Health Career Exploration Day at the UVM College of Medicine. 

What are your thoughts about this topic?