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Hispanic and Newcomer Outreach Partners with Medical Students for Mentoring Program

Two years ago, while helping one of his medical students at Oakland University William Beaumont (OUWB) School of Medicine (Rochester, Michigan) in his research on the local Hispanic community, Dr. Claudio Cortes discovered the Hispanic and Newcomer Outreach (HNO) ministry at Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan’s office in Pontiac, Michigan. During his visit to the HNO facility, the director asked Dr. Cortes if he would be interested in becoming a mentor for the children served there. His answer was an enthusiastic yes.

The assistant professor of Immunology in the OUWB Department of Foundational Medical Studies, Dr. Cortes teaches medical students during their first and second year in their program.

“I am passionate about teaching kids – it’s one of my dreams,” he said. Aware that OUWB (through COMPASS, the official name for community engagement at OUWB) is always looking for ways for its students to serve their local community, he considered how he might involve his medical students. And a mentoring partnership between OUWB and HNO was born.

“The new program is one in which both of us benefit,” said Dr. Cortes. “Our medical school selects students who want to be involved in the community—it is part of the school’s vision to give back. We want to provide opportunities for our students to grow as physicians to better serve their future patients.”

The mentoring program between HNO and the medical school is designed to provide educational activities so student mentors and the young people they mentor learn together.

“The mentors are role models for the children, and the children teach our students,” said Dr. Cortes.

Mentors and students engage in artistic activity

Mentors meet with their charges formally twice a month at the HNO facility, and have contact by phone once a week. The children participate in monthly educational activities and field trips. In addition to being inspired by their mentors, the children benefit from learning about topics such as wellness, dental health, the benefits of exercise and healthy diet, and the dangers of drug abuse and cigarette smoking.

“And the medical students learn how to better communicate with children,” Dr. Cortes explained. “They also get a better understanding of a different culture, and the difficulties these young people go through. Our medical students are often second generation themselves. They see themselves in these children and what they went through.”

Dr. Cortes uses the term “cultural humility” to describe the personal growth the medical students go through as they mentor. “They grow from the inside out,” he said. “It takes a long time, and the students come to understand they will never totally understand another person’s culture.”

He adds that an additional benefit from the program for the medical students is to give them a break from their intensive studies. “Being a medical student is very stressful. They have a good time going on the field trips with the children.”

On a field trip together

Having overseen the fledgling mentoring program since its pilot year in 2016-2017, Dr. Cortes said this year’s program is better organized, offering an opportunity for leadership for the mentors. “The medical students themselves are coordinating the program with Catholic Charities,” he said.

He points out the importance of quantitatively evaluating the program’s success.

“We want to know if we are effective,” he said. “Do the children learn?”

He said HNO performed a study and found a positive effect and improvement for the participants (*See results of their abstract below). They found such positive results that their project was accepted to be among several groups who presented their findings at a 2018 conference in April at Miami Dade College in Florida, sponsored by the Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA).

The OUWB-HNO mentoring program is not the only initiative that involves OUWB and HNO. Since 2017 the OUWB-LMSA has created a summer anatomy program to support the current summer program at HNO. “We have six to eight medical students who will be helping with 12 sessions,” said Dr. Cortes. “The medical students will use anatomical models to teach how parts of the body work, like the heart and lungs, and how external factors like smoking can affect those organs. The participation of medical students and faculty members in both the mentoring and the summer program are voluntary, which demonstrates again the commitment our students and faculty members have for serving the community.”

What are some other future goals for the program? They are considering helping teens with preparation for the SAT test, said Dr. Cortes, and possibly expanding the program to help adults—the parents of the children— with health-related topics of interest. “We are very excited about this,” he said. “While their children are learning in one room, the parents could be next door learning too. We want to find out what they need from us. Maybe they want to know about a specific disease such as lupus or fibromyalgia, and they don’t have access to technology, or have the ability to read or understand it. Our medical students and faculty member can help. As medical students, they cannot provide clinical advice, which should always come from a licensed physician. But educational activities presented in this way are great opportunities where both students and the community can learn together.”

Dr. Claudio Cortes (left) with guest, Dr. Stephen Loftus, giving a presentation to the mentors and children on dental health

*Following is an Excerpt of the OUWB-HNO program evaluation results discussed above:

Promoting Health in the Hispanic community: Developing a Mentoring Program Between a School of Medicine and a Hispanic Community

The results of the evaluation of the mentoring program were presented on April, 2018 at the 13th LMSA Conference at Miami Dade College, Florida. This mentoring program was formed in partnership between Oakland University William Beaumont (OUWB) School of Medicine students and Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan (CCSEM) Hispanic and Newcomer Outreach (HNO) in Pontiac, MI.

Purpose:

Partnering with the community to leverage expertise and enhance learning for both the community and medical students is essential to improving population health. Here we describe the process of how a mentoring program, where medical students mentor Hispanic youth, was established between OUWB and the Latino community through Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan’s Hispanic and Newcomer Outreach services. We will also describe how this program was incorporated under the LMSA chapter of OUWB, moved toward a faculty and student-driven initiative, and the initial evaluation of the program.

Method

The program was evaluated through survey data from the parents, youth, and medical student mentors. The evaluation consisted of formative assessments to determine effectiveness of learning through health educational activities. Portions of the Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale (BERS-2) for youth were also used to measure participants’ behavioral and social skills. Surveys of medical students included questions related to program satisfaction, perception of communication skills with children, understanding of the needs of children, and mentoring skills.

Results

Over the last two years, 50 medical students voluntarily become mentors for 50 children (ages 9 to 16) for a period of six to 12 months at the HNO facility in Pontiac, Michigan. This faculty-supervised program included a training session for mentors, health-related educational activities, field trips, weekly phone calls, and direct interaction with mentees twice a month, which collectively added up to over 2,000 service hours.

Analysis of surveys from OUWB mentors shows:

• 69% had experience being a mentor but only 20% had experience being a mentor to Hispanics

Results of survey satisfaction show high levels of student satisfaction of the program, increased communication skills with children, especially Hispanic children, and increased understanding of the needs of children. Most of the mentors involved would recommend the program to other medical students.

• 83% of the mentors reported learning new health information during the program
• They also reported improved proficiency as mentors from before beginning the program

The parents reported their children improved in interpersonal skills, family involvement, intrapersonal strength, school functioning, and affective (emotional) strength.
Finally, children’s scores on pre/post-tests increased significantly in 6 out of 8 sessions, suggesting they improved their knowledge, and that most sessions were effective.

Conclusions

Creating a productive partnership requires building on the unique strengths and resources within the community. Through the partnership between OUWB LMSA and HNO, the student mentors benefited from HNO’s strength in working with community members. Additionally, the OUWB medical students served as vital resources to positively influence the children involved. Both mentors and the children they mentored benefited in their interactions with each other, including improvements in confidence, communication skills, and cultural humility.

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