Melbourne Medical School welcomes mentoring program for final year students

For students preparing to graduate, the transition from study to professional practice can be daunting. While classrooms and practical training prepare students for clinical settings, mentoring can help students build soft skills like networking and interview skills.

Photo of Stephen and Olivia

MDHS MENTORING PROGRAM LAUNCHED

This year the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences (MDHS) launched its Faculty-wide mentoring program for final year students.

Welcoming 127 medical alumni and students in its first year, the program supports students through their final year of study and as they navigate the transition from university to professional practice.

“Mentoring offers students a non-judgemental learning space, a supportive and encouraging environment and opportunities to build new professional networks,” says Dr Nicky Kilpatrick, Paediatric dentist and MDHS mentoring consultant.

Participating students can gain valuable advice and insights from those who have gone before them. As mentors, our alumni have the chance to enhance their coaching and leadership skills and keep up to date with the latest in medical teaching.

“Alumni have the opportunity to learn mentoring skills, give back to their community and understand the perspectives of the next generation of doctors,” says Dr Kilpatrick.

MENTORING IN THE AGE OF COVID-19

In this time of social distancing and online learning, the support, connection and structure that a mentoring partnership can provide is more important than ever – for students and alumni mentors alike.

The program commenced in March this year, just as stage three social distancing laws were introduced across Victoria. For a program intended to take place mostly face-to-face, the path forward was unclear.

Luckily, with the help of technology, the program was able to adapt quickly and proceed with all mentoring meetings taking place virtually.

Participants have access to a set of online tools, along with a virtual training workshop to help set expectations and develop skills from the outset of the program.

“In a world in which there is a heightened sense of shared vulnerability, mentoring offers a particular value in collegiality and connection,” says Dr Kilpatrick.

A UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP

Stephen Carbone (MBBS 1985, BA 1994, BSW 1998, MPH 2017) and final year student Olivia Baenziger (BBiomed 2015) applied to be a part of the mentoring program earlier this year.

By March they’d heard that their applications had been successful and that they had been matched.

Before they could arrange their first meeting, COVID-19 took hold and stage three restrictions were instated across Victoria, preventing them from meeting face-to-face.

Despite this setback, Stephen and Olivia are already halfway through the program and learning a lot from each other.

DR STEPHEN CARBONE

Dr Stephen Carbone is a former general practitioner turned public health expert. He has a passion for promoting mental wellbeing, something that in the wake of COVID-19 will be needed more than ever.

He is currently the Executive Director of Prevention United – a mental health charity focused on preventing depression, anxiety, and other conditions from occurring in the first place.

Dr Carbone has followed an unusual career path for a medical practitioner. Given his broad interests, it’s only fitting that he now mentors a student studying a double degree in medicine and public health.

“I hadn’t thought of becoming a mentor until I got an email from the Alumni team and thought – why not? I wanted to give something back to the medical and public health community, and I thought this was a way I could help out.

“Things are always changing and progressing, and I think mentoring someone who is early in their career is a great way to stay in touch with what’s happening in the field. I see it as a mutual exchange of experiences, knowledge and ideas and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot from Olivia along the way.

“Working with Oliva has been enjoyable and definitely not onerous. We’ve met a couple of times via Zoom given the restrictions in place because of COVID-19. I thought I would need to try to be wise and helpful each time we spoke, but it’s really been more of a chat about what each of us is up to and sharing information and experiences that we think are useful.

“I am super impressed by Olivia. She is thoughtful, smart, enthusiastic, and involved in things – nothing like what I was like at uni. I admire her energy, her genuine interest in people and that she likes exploring and being involved in activities outside uni which I think is really important. I also admire the fact that she is doing the double degree – MPH and MD.

“The current situation has been a good talking point as we’re both interested

in public health and we’re both super impressed by the great job our public health people are doing at the moment (as well as our scientists and clinicians!).”

OLIVIA BAENZIGER

Oliva Baenziger is in her eighth year of study at the University of Melbourne. With a Bachelor of Biomedicine under her belt, Oliva is now completing her final year of a double degree in medicine and public health.

Having been fortunate enough to be part of a pilot mentoring program run in public health last year, Olivia was eager to participate again this year and broaden her horizons, this time in the field of medicine.

“Between my third and final year of medicine, I entered the Master of Public Health. This dual study opportunity is a fantastic initiative at the University of Melbourne. I love how public health intersects with many of my other interests in human rights and social theory. I believe that formal public health study will empower me to be a more holistic doctor, no matter what specialty path I pursue.

“I’ve learnt a lot about the value in networking and mentorship during my Master of Public Health. I find I am now much more open to getting to know people from areas outside my comfort zone and interests and learn about their careers. Given it is my final year of study before entering the medical workforce, it was nice to connect, reflect and gain insight into the experiences that others have had when in the same position.

“Being matched with Stephen has been great. I always like hearing about the different career paths doctors venture upon and hearing about Stephen’s work and journey has been very inspiring.

“Working with Stephen has enabled me to gain insight into some of the less common career paths medicine may lead to. I have been able to meet people I would have likely not otherwise met and learn about the structure and complexities of healthcare in Victoria.”

“I have also heard a lot of really interesting stories about the workforce and a few positive gems to keep me optimistic about my future in medicine.”

INTERESTED IN SUPPORTING A FINAL YEAR MED STUDENT?

Applications for the MDHS Mentoring Program 2021 will open later this year, find out more here.