Diverse Medical Student Mentorship Program builds needed community

Jan. 23, 2018

The idea grew out of a clear need identified almost simultaneously by School of Medicine medical school students and Graduate Medical Education residents and fellows. Just over a year ago, trainees and students joined forces to launch the Diverse Medical Student Mentorship Program. One of the key goals of the program is to create a community of support for students and trainees from diverse backgrounds.

A year later, the program's quarterly casual dinner events on campus have become go-to's for diverse students, trainees and faculty seeking fellowship, drawing 30 to 50 participants. A panel of three to four speakers, including a resident and a faculty member, cover various topics while attendees eat dinner, followed by introductions and small-group discussion. Attendees at Diverse Medical Student Mentorship Program dinner

"Students can migrate toward the faculty who have similar interests or background," says Allison Empey, M.D., who, along with fellow House Officer Marica Baleilevuka-Hart, M.D., helped launch the program as part of the House Officers Association Diversity Committee in late 2016, and has continued her involvement since joining the OHSU faculty as an instructor in pediatrics.

"I want to congratulate our trainees for identifying a need and taking the initiative to meet it," said George Mejicano, M.D., senior associate dean for education. "OHSU has work to do to fully become the diverse and welcoming institution we aspire to be. I am inspired to be on this path in partnership with our students, residents and fellows."

Diverse Medical Student Mentorship Program participantsFaculty are supportive of the program and there's no shortage of mentors. Students and residents have likewise shared their enthusiasm. Empey recalls one second-year medical student who stopped her in the hallway to tell her that the Diverse Medical Student Mentorship Program made her feel like she can stay at OHSU.

The program is similar to a program started last year by OHSU School of Medicine Graduate Studies students and faculty called the Alliance for Visible Diversity in Science.

Dr. Empey says she hopes to remain involved as the program continues, but says "I want the residents to be involved and have ownership of it—I want them to feel as invested as I do."

Pictured: Program participants at an event in August 2017. Photos by Jordan Sleeth.