First-generation students bring a valuable perspective to their medical schools and, ultimately, to the communities they serve. However, these students face unique challenges that can create gaps in their experience, making them feel unprepared and unsupported. One way to bridge these gaps is with mentorship.
AAMC staff sat down with first-generation medical students, residents, doctors, and their families to provide resources to current and incoming first-generation medical school students. The First-Generation Medical Students video series offers tips for finding mentorship and more.
Alejandra Casillas, MD, MSHS, assistant professor of medicine-in-residence at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine and a first-generation medical student, sat down with our team to share the advice she gives to students who are just starting medical school. Here are three tips for first-generation students looking for a mentor:
1. Find people who are invested in you.
Mentoring can be a powerful tool for your growth and development. But it can be confusing to know where to start. “Find people who you can tell already care about you or who see something in you. [People] who are invested in you,” said Casillas. This may be a professor, someone you shadowed, or someone else in your personal or extended network. When identifying these potential mentors, she advises to “latch on to those people.” Keep in mind that every connection you make will not turn out to be a mentor, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be a good addition to your network.
2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
“It’s not about finding that one mentor that’s going to guide you through life. You’re going to need an assortment of people to go to for many different things,” said Casillas. Consider why you are looking for a mentor, what role you want them to fill, and what goals you would like them to help you reach. Does the person you’re considering fit into this picture? You may have a few goals and may want to reach out to several people to meet them — and that's perfectly normal!
3. The risk is worth the reward.
“It's going to be scary to ask for help. It's going to be scary to reach out to someone you don't know. Just own that,” Casillas advised. We promise the risk is worth the reward! If you are nervous about asking someone to serve as your mentor, you may want to consider starting with an informational interview (or a follow-up discussion if you have already had an informational interview) to discuss your goals and make sure they are the right fit for you.
Check out the First-Generation Medical Students video series to hear more from Casillas. In addition to tips for finding mentorship, the video series provides students, their families, and advisors with advice from current medical students, resources to help ease the journey through medical school, and ways families can provide support. You can watch the full video series on the AAMC YouTube channel.
Resources for first-generation students:
Tools and Resources for First-Generation Medical School Students from the Group on Educational Affairs.
Finding Success as a First-Generation Medical Student from AAMCNews.
First-Generation Medical Students and The Match® from AAMCNews.
Resources for parents and advisors:
Thank you to our contributor, Alejandra Casillas, MD, MSHS, assistant professor of medicine-in-residence at the David Geffen School of Medicine.