The Charles H. Dater Foundation has awarded a 3-year, $33,000 grant to support the UC Med Mentors program, a mentoring partnership linking College of Medicine students with mentees in Cincinnati Public Schools.
The grant will support much of the programming offered to mentees through the year, including trips to the theater, movies, Cincinnati Zoo, Newport Aquarium and other area attractions. The Dater Foundation has been a strong supporter of the program, awarding annual grants since 2003.
Founded in 2001 by associate professor-educator of medical education Wan Lim, PhD, UC Med Mentors serves to connect medical students with Cincinnati youth during their time at the college. Mentors are recruited almost exclusively from the first and second year classes in order to provide multiple years of mentorship.
UC Med Mentors is an affinity group of the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative which trains and matches mentors with mentees. Currently, more than 150 students in all years of medical school are mentors, with more than 100 first and second year students attending the most recent training.
Third-year students Andrew Jimenez and Grant Shafer were recently recognized for their three years of work with their mentee Rashaun, receiving the CYC’s "Mentoring Works: Inspiring & Achieving” award in January.
Each week, they meet with Rashaun for a few hours, taking him to the library or bringing him to the medical school to study, and occasionally taking time to play Wii, go bowling, visiting Rashaun’s favorite Chinese restaurant or the Newport Aquarium. Over the years, they said they’ve seen Rashaun’s willingness to tackle his homework increase, evidence of his growing maturity.
"Working with Rashaun is always a good time,” says Jimenez, "and it keeps us grounded.”
Plans to Expand Literacy Goals
Funding from the new grant will also be used to support UC Med Mentor’s ongoing literacy efforts. As a non-profit organization, Lim says Med Mentors is able to purchase books at a significant discount from First Book to stock their "Mentee Book Treasury.” In the treasury, mentors can bring their mentees to the College of Medicine, to choose whatever books they like.
"These are new books and they are for the mentees to keep,” says Lim. "We would also like to encourage the mentees to be computer literate, which is an important skill for this day and age. We are looking for donations of new laptops for our mentees so that the mentors can work with the mentees on developing computer skills.”
Studying Mentorship's Effects
Lim also plans on conducting two studies on the program, one to track the effects of mentoring on mentees’ academic performance and the other to encourage healthy behaviors. Anecdotally, mentors have reported better school performance from their mentees after joining the UC Med Mentors program but there has been no concrete data.
In the next year, Lim will add two longitudinal research projects to quantify those reports. In one, they will track the grades of mentees over time; in the other, they will study childhood obesity. Mentors will work with mentees on recording their opinions of healthy food and exercise and then keep a journal of their activities.
"All our students will work with their mentees on creating a healthy lifestyle,” says Lim, "and one aspect of that is nutrition and exercise. We will encourage mentors to cook with their kids, teach them how to plan a menu and to make good food choices. Eventually we hope to put together a recipe booklet for them and their families of cheap, tasty and easy to make meals.”
They’ll also continue a tradition started this spring of a Med Mentors cook-off with 6 teams of mentors and their mentees competing to make the tastiest, healthiest meal.
Lim says she has been impressed with medical students’ interest in mentoring over the years. Through curriculum changes and community service, she says "their eyes are being opened to what the community is like and what it needs, which is new to medical education.”
"Medical students want to do good overall,” she says, "I still have graduates who email me and make the comment that ‘This is the best thing I did in medical school.’ This is something they remember—and many retain they relationship—even after they graduate.”
For more program information, call Lim (513) 558-7659 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.