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Leading the Way

Doctors Manitoba Mentorship Program pairs attending physicians and residents with med students

When third year medical student Gurmeet Sohi needs advice, guidance, or a quick word of support she knows exactly where to go.

“It’s very easy to have a conversation with her. She’s very approachable. I can ask her anything.”

Sohi is singing the praises of Dr. Isanne Schacter, her mentor.

Whether it’s a quick e-mail, text, coffee date or even dinner, Dr. Schacter is available for her young charge. Actually, Dr. Schacter is available for three young charges she’s taken under her wing.

“I get as much out of it as they do, I think,” says Dr. Schacter.

Dr. Schacter, who’s an assistant professor and the Program Director for the Subspecialty Endocrinology and Metabolism Residency Training program, is one of about 175 attending physicians and residents in Manitoba currently mentoring medical students. The Mentorship Program is the work of Doctors Manitoba, in collaboration with the Manitoba Medical Students’ Association. The program started in Fall 2016. There are currently 375 medical students enrolled in the mentorship  program.

Here’s how it works: Students are matched with residents and attending physicians  based on a questionnaire  about their personal and professional interests. There is no formal time commitment. Doctors and their mentees can meet at least once a semester, or about twice a year, says Sohi, who helped launch the current program in her former role as vice-stick external for the MMSA.

It can just be a quick coffee on or off campus. It camentorship meetingn be one-on-one or as a group.

“It’s meant to be informal and as needed,” says Sohi.

While the official requirement is low, some mentors and mentees spend even more time together. For example, last year a group went to an escape room together just for fun, Sohi says. Dr. Schacter and her mentees have all gone out for dinner. Another dinner party with her students is currently in the works.

While bonding and blowing off steam together is valuable, mentees also seek practical advice from their mentors about their profession, including clarity about clerkship, the pressure of the profession, and how to build a balanced life as a physician.

“Guidance is something we need through this journey, through this profession. We all have questions. And they have been there. They can help,” says mentee and med student Janelle Quintana, who is in her third year and about to begin clerkship this fall.

Quintana is also one of Dr. Schacter’s mentees. When Quintana recently had questions about her clerkship, Dr. Schacter had answers.

“She really emphasized the importance of family and asking for help. It was good advice,” Quintana says. “I feel really grateful for the time, energy and effort she takes to mentor us.”

The Mentorship Program is also about building long-term peer relationships and networking. The program can help guide students to a specialty or steer them to something different. If mentors don’t have the answers to questions about a specialty, they often know another physician working in that field. Through their connections they can connect mentees with the right  people.

As Dr. Schacter says: “I think everyone should do it. Mentors and mentees get so much out of it. They’re creating long- lasting networks and ties, friendships and connections.”