Mentoring for success
Jennifer Parraga, BA’93Every Saturday, Christine Huynh is busy teaching the intricacies of badminton and mentoring young players on courts in her hometown of Mississauga.
It’s on similar courts, where the fourth-year dentistry student first met her mentor, who not only coached her for badminton, but helped her navigate her academic pursuits and taught her important life lessons.
Huynh believes the support she received from her mentor and family has been critical to her success as a student, athlete, coach and person.
It’s in part what led her to set up a mentorship program at Schulich Dentistry to benefit her peers.
“Dentistry is really a challenging program,” she said. “More challenging than I ever thought it would be. When the stress and anxiety in first year started to set in, I realized how beneficial it would be to have a mentor – someone I could talk to about everything I was experiencing.”
She decided then and there to set up a mentorship program.
The volunteer-based program brings together early-year students with upper-year students and alumni. Mentor and mentee matches are made based on the goals, interests and needs of the mentee and begin with a six-month commitment. Mentors are expected to check in at least once per year, however the pair determines the amount of engagement and the types of activities they pursue. In some cases, the pairs have lasted for a number years and continue outside the official program.
The program, which began three years ago, has been hugely successful with more than 150 students now participating and more alumni signing on to serve as mentors annually
Huynh attributes part of the program’s success to the School’s receptiveness to change and student involvement.
“One of the reasons why I chose Schulich Dentistry is because of its reputation to engage students and be open to change,” she said.
She has also been surrounded and supported by a team of 10 peers who have ensured the program continued to succeed.
Huynh began to develop an interest in dentistry in high school. By the time she began her undergraduate studies, she was shadowing a dentist regularly and planning out her future. It was through this experience that Huynh began to appreciate the interpersonal skills that dentists use every day.
Arriving on Western’s campus in the fall of 2016 was a major turning point for the young dentistry student as she moved out on her own and began to navigate a new life. Within weeks, her class began to bond and become a close-knit community. It positioned Huynh to engage further with her peers and embrace her dental school experience to the fullest.
In addition to maintaining her studies and overseeing the intricacies of the mentorship program, during the past four years, Huynh has been engaged with local and global communities. She has participated in Brush-A-Mania, a local program that has dentistry students visiting public schools to make presentation about oral health and nutrition. She has also participated with two outreach programs with Health Mission Outreach – travelling to Guatemala to provide dental care.
And then there are those Saturday mornings, where she joins her own mentor in coaching the next generation of outstanding badminton players.
“What we are really doing when we are coaching is teaching life lessons – how to be honest, how to pursue your dreams, how to bounce back up when you feel down,” she said.
With graduation on the horizon, Huynh has been planning on how to pass the baton for the leadership of the mentorship program to her peers. She’s excited to become an alumna mentor where she plans to continue mentoring students, particularly new graduates, via online communications. It’s a small, easy way for Huynh to give back to the dentistry community that has helped her succeed.
Members of Schulich Dentistry’s Mentorship Committee
- Caitlin Loo
- Cindy Xiao
- Harleen Junega
- Janine De Klerk
- Joanne Yu
- Ruby Bhutani
- Zion Lee
- Dr. Mark Darling
- Ms. Pamela Bere