When it comes to social responsibility and encouraging others to get involved, second year students Erfun Hatam and Alex McDougall are certainly doing their part. As the co-leads for the Altitude: Healthcare Mentoring program in Windsor, they have been able to match 33 University of Windsor first-year undergraduate students with 33 medical students.
Altitude: Healthcare Mentoring is a provincial program that encourages mentorship within universities, pairing first year undergraduate students from under-represented populations with medical students. The program takes place throughout the academic year, and the mentor works one-on-one with a student. At the conclusion of their experience, students are asked to pay-it-forward and mentor a youth in the community.
While Hatam and McDougall’s journeys to medical school were different, they both agree that they would have benefitted from a similar type of program when they were undergraduate students. “I remember having so many questions as an undergrad,” said McDougall. “If you can have someone there who can tell you more about the pathway to the career you want, it can really help,” he added.
“I wish I had planned more and learned about things earlier,” added Hatam, noting that if he had access to a similar program he would have known sooner that medical school was the right fit for him.
The two mentors were armed with an ambitious goal of matching 25 students when they began promoting the program in early September. And success wasn’t far behind. After launching an email campaign to faculty who teach in first year science classes at the University of Windsor, they began to make in-class presentations. Interested students were then encouraged to submit an application.
Thirty-three submissions were made, and after phone interviews with each candidate, everyone was enrolled in the program. Hatam and McDougall were proud of the results. “I would never have guessed we would receive this magnitude of response,” said McDougall.
They were, however, challenged with the added responsibility to find funding, as Altitude only covers off the costs for 25 students. “We weren’t sure at first how to deal with this,” said Hatam. “But we couldn’t bring ourselves to cut any of the students, so we pushed ahead, and are finding funding, renting rooms and changing our approach.”
For Hatam and McDougall, the opportunity to enable young students to gain information to better explore education in the health care professions is the ideal way to get involved. And at the end of the day, they hope to have created enough awareness about the program that the success of will continue for years to come.