USF Health students win national grant for IPE mentoring program

USF Health medical students won a grant from the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society to continue implementing a mentoring program that pairs current health students with future health students and provides them with a service learning project that benefits local homeless communities.

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Plexus members plan training sessions for mentors are, from left, Bailee Olliff, Kathleen Pombier, Kathryn Dean, Cindy Shavor all second-year medical students.

The inter-professional group won $5,000 for the first year, $3,000 for the second year, and $1,000 for the third year for its USF Health Plexus/Tampa Bay Street Medicine (TBSM) Leadership though Service Cooperative, an innovative project that connects health professional students (medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy) with pre-health undergraduate students.

The cooperative effort is a combination of the Plexus mentoring project and TBSM, a USF MCOM organization that provides care to the local homeless community in the Tampa Bay area. Students can participate in Plexus alone, TBSM alone, or the USF Health Plexus/TBSM cooperative, said S. Nick Kovacs, third-year medical student and founder and director of USF Health Plexus.

“Receiving this award is extremely exciting,” Kovacs said. “The funds will help Plexus implement the new leadership curriculum, but more importantly will aid in the purchase of the equipment and supplies necessary for providing the appropriate education and care to the Tampa Bay homeless community. Also, winning the AOA award is a bit of reassurance that we are doing something truly special here.”

The founders of the three groups decided to collaborate in order to provide a service learning opportunity for mentors and undergraduate mentees alike, Kovacs said.

“We feel this service component will be an invaluable experiential learning opportunity for students to implement and embed the newly acquired knowledge, skills, and attitudes attained through the expanded program curriculum,” he said. “Through this collaboration we will create the cycle of learning leadership through teaching leadership and partnering in service.”

“This prestigious three-year award from the national AOA office will advance IPE leadership training in addition to providing service to our community,” said Patricia Emmanuel, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics in the USF Health, Morsani College of Medicine. “It was a joint effort of students and faculty mentors from across USF Health and our Dean helped seal the deal with matching funds.”

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USF Health Plexus gives undergraduate students support and guidance for developing the professional behaviors and characteristics found within their chosen health professions. The Plexus Mentoring Program inducted its first class of 23 mentors and 30 mentees in October 2013. Mentors include 20 medical students and three pharmacy students. Mentees include nine freshman, eight sophomores, six juniors, and seven seniors. Mentors and mentees completed an application to participate in the program that helped determine program and career interests, demographics, and match mentors and mentees based on similar personal/professional interests.

Team members of Plexus include Kovacs, Bailee Oliff (second-year medical student), Sara Anderson (first-year pharmacy student), and Elizabeth D’Esposito (first-year pharmacy student), with additional support from Anabel Anon (second-year medical student).

Team members of TBSM include Jason Ricciuti (third-year medical student), Karim Khan (second-year medical student), Christopher Childs (third-year medical student), Shawna Foley (first-year medical student), and Eric Monaco. Founding TBSM planning team include Elizabeth Black (third-year medical student), Samson Lu (second-year medical student), Candace Gonzalez (second-year medical student), Michelle Blanco (third-year medical student), Michael Manasterski (third-year medical student), Stephen Mayper (third-year medical student), and Susan Kunihiro (third-year medical student).

Faculty mentors include Kevin Casey, Shirley Smith and Shaterra White of the Office of Student Diversity and Enrichment in the Morsani College of Medicine; Dr. Patricia Emmanuel, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and USF Health AOA counselor; Dr. Steven Specter in Student Affairs; Dr. Cathy Lynch in the Department of OB/GYN; Dr. Elizabeth Warner in the Department of Internal Medicine and co-facilitator of the Health Disparities Scholarly Concentration; and Dr. Harry van Loveren, in the Department of Neurosurgery and interim dean of the Morsani College of Medicine.

Story by Sarah Worth, USF Health Office of Communications. Photo by Anabel Anon, second-year medical student