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January 2007 Issue

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Medical Students Find Balance in Mentoring Local Children

Published January 2007

Studying to be a doctor can consume a student’s life. But a group of medical students at UC have found a way to spend a bit of their free time away from the books.

More than 100 students volunteer with UC Med Mentors—an organization that pairs medical students with children from one of Cincinnati’s public schools.

Med Mentor volunteers see the program as a way to direct their attention toward something other than themselves.

"In medical school, it’s easy to spend all of your time studying,” says second-year student Allison Bedingfield. "So it’s good to have some balance.”

And because Med Mentors has been awarded so many grants over the past few years, the program has funding that helps defray the costs to mentors who want to take their mentees to the theater and other area attractions.

Bedingfield and her mentee—a 10-year-old Burton Elementary School student—have taken trips to the Cincinnati Zoo, The Beach Waterpark and the Aronoff Center. Recently, the two joined 14 other Med Mentor pairs to bake cookies, brownies and muffins for soldiers overseas.

After nearly five hours of baking—the groups took shifts—Med Mentors mailed more than 750 sweets to Germany and Iraq.

Events like this, says Med Mentor director Wan Lim, PhD, teach mentees a lot about socialization, but also about important everyday tasks like following recipes and using proper hygiene.

And although health isn’t the big focus of mentors’ time with their mentees, they do think they’re gaining something from the experience that will definitely help them with their future medical career.

"By volunteering, we get to see what kind of social situations our future patients might be dealing with,” says Bedingfield.

Med Mentor Robyn Hale took her mentee to see "Peter Pan” last year. The two have also been to a ballet production and a tea party.

"I love kids and hope to become a pediatrician,” says Hale. "Med Mentors is a great way for me to keep connected.”

Second-year student Amy Petit and her mentee talk on the phone each week and get together once or twice a month. They’ve visited the Newport Aquarium and the movies and spent time last spring coloring Easter eggs.

Another program focus is literacy. Mentors spend time with mentees at local libraries picking out books and reading together.In November, Med Mentors was awarded 60 copies of the book The Incredibles Fight to the Finish! and a $600 grant from First Book Greater Cincinnati. Lim expects the group will be able to buy about 300 books for mentees.

"We try to encourage the kids we mentor to read by giving them ownership of new books,” says Lim. For more program information, call (513) 558-7659. 

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