Student-created mentorship groups shine through UMass LIGHT

Three groups of UMass Chan Medical School students have partnered in a mentorship program called UMass LIGHT (The Leadership Institute for Growth, Health, and Transformation). The goals of UMass LIGHT are to increase diversity, equity and inclusion; promote career growth; and create professional development opportunities through mentorship and community events. On Saturday, May 14, UMass LIGHT is hosting its first conference at the Beechwood Hotel across from the Worcester Medical School campus.

Uchechi Nna and Daniel Ugochukwu

UMass LIGHT, which pairs students with faculty members, includes programs originally created by UMass Chan Chapters of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) and the MD/PhD program. Organizers say UMass LIGHT has grown since its inception last year to include more than 300 students and faculty.

“There aren’t many places where underrepresented students can have casual conversations with people who have a lot of experience in this field to find support around nuanced things – things that aren’t necessarily exams and things step by step, but how, for example, to look for opportunities,” said Uchechi Nna, a student at TH Chan School of Medicine.

Nna, a former SNMA board member, came up with the idea for UMass LIGHT with fellow medical student Daniel Ugochukwu.

“We were thinking about how we could leave a lasting impact on the school, and we thought about mentorship and the fact that there aren’t a lot of mentorships for minority students here,” Ugochukwu said.

The groups are working with Mark Johnson, MD, PhD, the Maroun Semaan Chair in Neurosurgery, president and professor of neurological surgery and senior vice provost for mentorship, leadership, and transformation at UMass Chan. Dr. Johnson has been working with other UMass Chan leaders to create a mentorship and leadership institute since being named senior vice provost last year.

“During the pandemic, I think it’s become very clear to a lot of us that we need to be more connected,” Johnson said. “The institute’s goal is to help students and faculty realize their full potential, help them be more connected, and feel more included at UMass Chan.”

The conference will take place on Saturday, May 14 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Speakers include Mary Ahn, MD, professor of psychiatry and vice provost for faculty affairs; Rick Sontag, MBA, Founder and President of the Sontag Foundation, which aims to improve the quality of life for brain tumor patients; Terence R. Fleet, MD, the Professor Celia and Isaac Haidak, Executive Vice Chancellor, Provost and Dean of TH Chan School of Medicine; and Jack Rossin, presentation trainer and instructor at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

Participants will also have the opportunity to develop leadership and mentorship skills.

AMWA medical student Niharika Kareddy and medical/doctoral students Melanie Barbini and Michela Oster helped make the event happen.

Those interested in attending the event can register here. Additional information is available on the UMass LIGHT website. Questions can be directed to [email protected]

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