By: Mercedes Stemm, Program Assistant, Indigenous Health in Medicine, Dalhousie BSc in Neuroscience/Indigenous Studies Student
In our series on Medical Mentorship programs for Indigenous students we had the opportunity to speak with Allison Macintyre, a 2nd year Biomedical Science student at the University of Ottawa. Allison joined Ottawa’s mentorship program as a mentee upon the creation of the program in the Fall of 2019, and she was eager to meet with me this Fall to speak about the program.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your academic path to medicine
“I’m mixed race (my father is First Nations and my mother is from Germany) and I’m a member of the Moose Cree First Nation. I didn’t grow up on my reserve (Moose Factory, ON), but in Chesterville, a small town about an hour’s drive south of Ottawa. Throughout my childhood and high school years, I was involved in some aspects of Indigenous culture, like going to pow-wows and participating in the Indigenous student leadership program offered by my school board. However, I haven’t been as connected to my own First Nations culture as I would like. My grandmother attended residential school and because of the trauma she endured there, she didn’t pass her culture or language down to my father. I hope to learn my native language, Moose Cree, someday and to learn more about my culture. I am involved with the University of Ottawa’s Indigenous Resource Centre, so I’m connected to Indigenous people at the university. I started out doing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, but I might switch to a different program that better fulfills the medical school prerequisites.”
Why were you interested in participating in the University of Ottawa’s mentorship program?
“I was interested in participating in the mentorship program because I was curious about hearing what medical school was like. Also, applying to medical school is very intimidating so I thought that it would be helpful to get advice from people who’ve already done it and succeeded.”
How has the mentorship program impacted you?
The mentorship program has definitely made getting into medical school seem more tangible and probable to me. When I research medical school and getting accepted into medical school, it’s often very discouraging. I’ve read stories about people with lots of volunteer and extracurricular experience with a high GPA applying to medical school and getting rejected every time. This mentorship program helps take away some of the dread and lack of hope when trying to apply to medical school.
What are your takeaways from the mentorship program and how will it impact your future studies?
Some key points that I’ve learned from the mentorship program are that the best way to strengthen my application for medical school is to pursue things that I’m interested in, like with volunteering. I’ll be more passionate during the interview if I actually enjoyed what I did. Thus, it’s encouraged me to pursue studies that I’m interested in and to do volunteering and research that I’m interested in.
What are your thoughts on Dalhousie University having a mentorship program similar to the one in which you have participated?
“I think that it’s great and that more universities should have programs like this to encourage I\Indigenous students to go into medicine.”
Mentorship Program at Dalhousie
In September 2020, a pilot mentorship program was established in collaboration with the Bachelor of Medical Sciences led in partnership by the Indigenous Health in Medicine (IHIM) program and Promoting Leadership in health in African Nova Scotians (PLANS). The funding for this program is part of a collaboration with the Johnson Scholarship Foundation.
The main purpose of this program is to reduce/eliminate barriers to underrepresented students exploring their full potential as learners. The Faculty of Medicine is responsible for organizing the mentorship match between student/mentee and mentor. Student mentees who are matched with a mentor are then encouraged to take leadership in the relationship to ensure that they are able to get the most value from their experience.
The pilot program consists of 10 undergraduate Bachelor of Medical Sciences (and general science) students in their first or second year of study (5 who identify as African Nova Scotian and 5 who identify as Indigenous). In addition, they were matched with 10 mentors who may be third- or fourth-year undergraduate students, medical students, or graduate students in health programs.
In the next blog of this series, I will discuss the creation of our mentorship program in detail, including how and why the program was created. Additionally, the series will include blog posts with interviews from both a mentee and mentor in our pilot program.