USF Health students mentor undergrads to help define pathways to careers in health

It’s all about connecting with those who have walked before you. That’s the crux of USF Health Plexus, a mentoring program that pairs current students in USF Health colleges and programs with future health students in hopes of offering them support, guidance and assistance.

Students from across USF Health colleges and programs spent a recent evening meeting pre-health undergraduate students, some reuniting and getting updates on progress and some meeting for the first time.

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The USF Health Plexus project, which is funded in part by the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society and is supported by the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and its Office of Student Diversity and Enrichment, is founded on helping students succeed in their efforts to become doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and public health professionals. The effort is a success and is, very much, meeting a need for strong mentorship, said Jessica Lambert, a second-year student in the USF College of Pharmacy and director of the Plexus Mentoring project.

“I have been involved with Plexus since 2014 and, when I first joined the program, there were roughly 50 participants, with 25 mentors and 25 undergraduates,” Lambert said. “Since taking then, and with hard work from our outreach team, we were able to increase enrollment to more 330 members this year. Mentorship provides our undergraduates with an insider view on everything that it takes to make it into a professional healthcare program. Our mentors love guiding their mentees through these complicated and nerve-racking times, afterall who is better to prepare you for the application process than someone who just successfully went through it themselves?”

The mentoring project helps students connect both on a one-to-one basis and as a network to facilitate the development of the professional behaviors and attitudes necessary for a successful health career. It is also tailored to each student, she said.

Plexus 2016
Plexus 2016
Plexus 2016
Plexus 2016
Plexus 2016
Plexus 2016
Plexus 2016
Jenny Huynh (left) matched with Ahh Bri, first-year medical student .
Plexus 2016
Plexus 2016
Anas Honini (left) jots down info provided by third-year pharmacy student Issa El-Ajame.
Plexus 2016
Plexus 2016
Mentor matched are Gabriela Saavedia (left) from Pharmacy and Sindy Saint Clair.
Plexus 2016
Spencer Henth from Pharmacy matched with Ritchine Guerrier.

“One aspect that makes this program so unique is that we hand select every mentor and mentee pair,” Lambert said. “We pair members based on health profession interests, but we also try to match members based on their personality, hobbies and backgrounds. This style of pairing allows members to relate to one another on a more personal level, creating a stress-free and more productive partnership. This process is time consuming, but we receive tremendously positive feedback for our efforts.”

In addition to offering support and advice, mentors complete several modules with their mentees throughout the year that touch on professionalism, writing a personal statement, interview techniques, and how to prepare for entrance exams like the MCAT, PCAT or GRE, among other topics.

“Having mentored several pre-health undergraduates I see a sense of relief and understanding come over them at the end of each session,” Lambert said. “They seem more confident and more enthusiastic about applying for a professional health program. I am very proud of this program and I know that it has made a huge impact on so many students’ lives.”

Photos by Ryan Noone, USF Health Office of Communications