MD Link: Medical-Student-Run Mentor Program

Guest post

By Emmanuel Fale, Michael Kelly, Puja Patel, Susan Molina and Jeeva Palanisamy (University of Minnesota medical students)

MD Link is a medical-student-run, non-profit mentorship organization at the University of Minnesota, positioned to support the needs of community organizations that serve youth who are vulnerable.

Two-fold Mission: To Develop Leaders & Mentor Youth

Our mission is two-fold: We strive to make our organization a place where student-mentors are inspired to become leaders and advocates for change within our communities, while also providing youth who are vulnerable with stable role-models.

Our group supports the leadership and development of its members through building mentoring relationships with the youth of our community. Diversity, equity and inclusion are central to our group’s core philosophy as most of the youth involved in our mentorship program have been victim to the harsh realities of systemic racism.

Jeeva Palanisamy, an MD Link mentor and the Youth Safety Officer for the MD Link Board, says that his experience as a mentor has reminded him of the multifaceted nature of health and how there are so many factors that play a role in an individual’s well-being. Working closely with his mentee through MD Link has reinforced why these principles are applied in clinical settings—something that he knows he will take forward with him in his future career.

We strive to make a positive impact on youth through connections with medical students who may have similar experiences and by providing resources to aid in their success in academics and in life. Our student-mentors are thoroughly trained to provide culturally sensitive, trauma-informed mentorship. Additionally, each mentor-mentee relationship is uniquely focused on the needs of each individual mentee and pairings are based on an intake survey.

When Palanisamy first met his mentee he felt like he was a “clone of him.” They both like food, basketball and video games. One of Palanisamy’s favorite parts about being a mentor with MD Link is the fact that it “gives kids a chance to just be kids around us.” He notes that “often, mentees have had to sacrifice this part of their life as they get pushed through the justice system.” Giving mentees time to just be teenagers and encouraging them to try things they may not have done before is what Palanisamy thinks is so special about being a mentor.

Three Pillars: Mentorship, Workshops and Community Awareness Campaigns

We have three fundamental pillars: Mentorship, Workshops and Community Awareness Campaigns.

Stable and consistent mentorship is a staple of MD Link. We pride ourselves on our unique approach to providing personalized, supportive and reliable mentorship for our community’s youth. Palanisamy says that this is one of the things that attracted him to become a part of the organization. He believes that MD Link emphasizes a mentor-mentee relationship “that is a forever commitment,” which is what he believes makes it a great organization. One of Palanisamy’s goals as a mentor has been to build lifelong relationships that continue even after he graduates from medical school and goes onto residency. He looks forward to building a connection that will allow for his mentee to reach out about anything, “whether it is about the NBA or about something happening in their life,” because that is the kind of mentorship he has appreciated the most in his own life.

MD Link also provides a wide array of workshops for our community partners and the youth they serve. Workshops are created and presented by student-mentors themselves. Workshops include STI education, financial literacy, college preparedness and so much more. If you are interested in having MD Link present for you, please contact us through our website.

Our third pillar of advocacy (or community awareness campaigns) is research, presentation and illuminating the challenges we face as a community. We use our research and presentations to promote meaningful and impactful change within our communities.

The Benefits of Mentoring

Palanisamy feels like his experience as a mentor for MD Link so far has helped him contextualize the learning he did in his first few years of medical school. Being able to help mentees on an individual level has been a great “grounding experience to help us remember why we do what we do,” and has helped him remember why he chose to become a physician in the first place.

At MD Link, we recognize the limitations in what a single person can achieve, but understand that when we collaborate, we have unlimited potential. Being a part of a mentorship program is not only beneficial to the mentee, but also the mentor. Palanisamy sees it as “reciprocal learning, like a positive feedback loop with constant energy and learning compounding itself.” He has found that the enthusiasm, effort and energy that he puts into time with his mentee is always reciprocated and is what makes being a part of MD Link so valuable.

As a non-profit 503(c)(3) organization, MD Link relies heavily upon donations. All funds go directly to the youth, as MD Link is run voluntarily by driven and compassionate students. You can make a donation to MD Link via the MD Link website.

Views and opinions expressed are our own and do not reflect that of the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians and the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Pictured: MD Link mentors and post authors

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