September 25, 2006

Medical Student Mentoring

Four years ago, I was a pre-med student. I joined a new group just starting up, filled with medical students eager to mentor young fledglings like myself. It was a bit rocky in the beginning and I was paired up with a mentor in his 3rd year. He was so busy in his clerkships that I only got to see him once -- he didn't make it to any of the planned activities through the year. I ate lunch with him once and he intimidated me. I expressed an interest in Doctors without Borders and I got a lecture about how it would be all work and no fun and basically, a waste of time unless I liked to volunteer and acquire larger debts from idle school loans that would be harder to pay off.

It was after that encounter that I made a resolution. If... no... When I became a medical student, I would strive to be an encouraging mentor. An "inspiring, down-to-earth and good storytelling" mentor, as I wrote in my Personal Statement earlier this year.

This past Friday we had our mixer for the mentors and mentees. I gave a little speech in which I talked about the transition from being a pre-med to being a med student. I talked about being challenged enough to be "whelmed" as opposed to overwhelmed. I also quoted Stephen Colbert, a witty fake-news commentator on Comedy Central. He gave a commencement speech that I found online and I really enjoyed it. I've spliced it up so hopefully it'll be enjoyable for you too.
Say “yes” as often as you can. When I was starting out in Chicago, doing improvisational theatre with Second City and other places, there was really only one rule I was taught about improv. That was, “yes-and.” ... To build a scene, you have to accept. They say you’re doctors—you’re doctors. And then, you add to that: We’re doctors and we’re trapped in an ice cave. That’s the “-and.” And then hopefully they “yes-and” you back... It’s more of a mutual discovery than a solo adventure...

Now will saying “yes” get you in trouble at times? Will saying “yes” lead you to doing some foolish things? Yes it will. But don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise... Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”

And that’s The Word.

I enjoy "yes-and." Some might say that it is sucking up... just like some people call BS on corny or cliche things. Funny how cynical that sounds. :) "Yes-and" is about enthusiasm and participation. That's the side that I want to focus on.

I also organized some mixer games for the group. My favorite one was a "Coat of Arms" with a blank shield emblem split up into four parts. Everyone was directed to draw something about themselves in each of the quadrants:
  1. My "Great Doctor" Quality
  2. My Medical Quirk (something weird about themselves that they were willing to share)
  3. Favorite Pastime
  4. Favorite Food
My personal experience with "thinking" icebreakers is that people don't really want to work too hard at them... so I tossed in the last two categories as an easy gimme. The mentors all stood in a circle facing outwards and mentees stood around them and they got to talk for about 2 minutes or so to get to know each other. It was successful... perhaps too much so, because people ended up just chit-chatting towards the end.

Here's the file if you ever want to try a similar activity!

And in case you were curious...
  1. I drew a picture of an open book. Partly because I'm so open, but more so because I love stories. Doctors get to hear the most interesting and intimate stories people can tell... and they have to turn them into something relevant in their 15 minute visits! Wow.
  2. Hyperhidrosis. I've mentioned it before. I drew a stick figure with a blue marker, dripping from the hands and an arrow pointing to a guy with cartoony sweat flying out of his head.
  3. I drew a wizard with a green robe and a magic wand. I love to play role-playing games. It feeds my addiction to stories. In particular, I love to play Dungeons and Dragons.
  4. I drew some shrimp diving eagerly into a cup of cocktail sauce. Mmm... shrimp. The tasty "cockroaches of the sea," as one of my seafood-ophobe friendswould so delicately put it.

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