Many students agree that medical school is stressful. The analogy of “drinking out of a firehose” is used at orientation to describe what it’s like to be a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) student at Georgia Campus – Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (GA-PCOM).
Mentoring has played an important role at GA-PCOM since at least 2015 when Mason W. Pressly Memorial Medal winner and surgical resident Jessica Mormando, DO ’16, the vice president of the DO Council at the time, spent a year developing a mentoring program.
Along with faculty support, she recruited more than 100 resident and attending physicians to serve as mentors. In September 2015, the mentoring program launched with a structure of “mentor families” including a resident, an attending physician, and two students from each class. Many students related that the encouragement they received from the participating physicians and upper classmen was as valuable as the information provided.
This year, after reviewing Mormando’s work and with the help of Personal Support Counselor Leanne Henry-Miller from the Office of Student Affairs, the “House” system was conceived. At the request of DO Council President Abdul Walters (DO ’20) and Vice President Nikki Mitchell (DO ’20), Class Representative Jason Banarsee (DO ’20) volunteered to help organize students and faculty members.
During the summer of 2017, Banarsee developed and sent surveys to members of the incoming first- and second-year DO classes asking if they wanted to participate in a mentoring system. Based on responses and common interests, Banarsee placed the students in seven houses—each with faculty sponsors, lab teaching assistants and peer tutors. “Bigs” and “Littles” were also matched up and placed in the same house.
Second-year students, Reshma Patel (DO ’20), Amanda Bortle (DO ’20), Ronak Patel (DO ’20), Mansi Vadodaria (DO ’20), Khadijah Jihad (DO ’20), Nicole McManus (DO ’20) and Christopher Duke (DO ’20) stepped up to be house coordinators.
Faculty sponsors volunteered their time to help. They include: Regina Fleming, DO; Bonnie Buxton, PhD; Kimberly Baker, PhD; Francis Jenney, PhD; Renee Himmelbaum, DO; Michael Selby, PhD; Valerie Cadet, PhD; Shafik Habal, MD; William Delp, DO; Daren Wannamaker, DO; Adwoa Aduonum, PhD; Ali Moradi, MD; Elizabeth Levine, MA; Lori Redmond, PhD; and Charlie Daniels, MD.
The result, which is still evolving, is providing participants with opportunities for camaraderie, friendly competition and advice. In October and February, forums were held with alumni talking to house members about such topics as work-life balance, choosing a specialty based on the life they want to live, coping with stress, trusting oneself as a physician, and preparing for board exams. There have been opportunities for volunteering together, as well as activities designed just for fun. A “Pie-a-Professor” event provided much needed levity in January, while a visit to Sky Zone is in the near future.
According to Banarsee, this year’s house team leaders want to make sure students “are taken care of in every way possible ... to help lessen the load.” He added, “Sometimes we forget when we enter these halls how important it is to maintain friendships; we need them to stay sane, especially as we pursue this level of higher learning.”
Henry-Miller summed it up, “The students are all in this together. It’s important to learn from those who have walked in their footsteps. We hope that this year’s first-year students have seen the value of a mentoring program and will help those who follow them.”
Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine which has a storied history as a premier osteopathic medical school. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service to the wider community. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center, an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 678-225-7500.
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