A supportive relationship with a mentor during medical school can promote success in an infinite number of ways that follow students into their medical careers. From how to approach interviews to dealing with the first months on the job, a mentor can share insider knowledge from their medical school journey as well as guide aspiring physicians.
A newly minted physician, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) grad Daniela Jimenez, MD, ’22 is looking forward to the start of her medical career after matching at Cleveland Clinic Florida, her first choice. It was an accomplishment she had worked long and hard for—but she also gives credit to her mentor, Melissa Woo, MD, ‘16, for providing the support that was instrumental to her success.
Inspiration and knowledge shapes careers
Born in Miami, Florida, Jimenez became interested in medicine after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Inspired by her mother’s medical care and remission, she was eager to attend medical school, as was her twin sister, who is also currently finishing her degree at RUSM. “I struggled a bit with the MCAT and remember wishing I could ask someone for advice.” That’s one of the many reasons she was excited to meet Dr. Woo at an open house at RUSM. “She was a resident then and spoke about her experience doing rotations and matching at Cleveland Clinic Florida in internal medicine. Throughout my first and second years, Dr. Woo provided study tips and recommendations for resources. During my clinicals, she was the attending physician and we worked together. I observed her approach to patient care and learned about everything from bedside manner to working in teams from her.”
Insights from physicians in the field
Dr. Woo invited Jimenez to meet with mentors who had already begun their careers. “Mentors would talk with students a few times a month and would answer questions. I was so thankful for her interest in my career development. She helped to answer my questions about beginning a career in internal medicine. We began a professional relationship that will extend from the classroom into my residency and beyond.”
Jimenez was thrilled to match for an internal medicine residency at Cleveland Clinic Florida, where she completed her clinicals in internal medicine and surgery. “Although beginning clinicals was a bit intimidating, I felt like RUSM had prepared me well. Experiences like simulations, how to do ultrasounds, and how to do physical exams made me feel ready for the challenge.” She explains that the patients she sees at the hospital are predominantly Hispanic and speaking Spanish with them made her feel at home. “Though it is fast-paced, the nurses and other residents make it a supportive environment. Having Dr. Woo available on site made the location a perfect match for me.” After her experience as a peer tutor and teaching assistant at RUSM, Jimenez has plans to support other medical students.
See one, do one, teach one
Dr. Woo believes her interest in mentorship began with her own teachers throughout her education. “The mentorship I received from my teachers and professors was integral in helping me get through medical school. Later during rotations, the residents and attendings spent time with me, one-on-one. I respected their ability to impart knowledge and training that helped me to understand the material at a deeper level. Their guidance was especially important to me, and it made me want to do the same for others.” Her desire to mentor began as she came into contact with other students completing rotations at Cleveland Clinic. “I remembered what it was like to do clinicals. You have so many questions and someone there to show you the ropes helps so much.”
She is grateful for her own experience with engaged mentors at RUSM. “Students are assigned an advisor who assists students with career decisions and choosing specialties. They can get advice on rotation choices, residency programs, and specialties that will shape their careers.”
Offering insights from her medical school journey, Dr. Woo emphasizes taking a proactive role to use the many resources available at RUSM. “Whether it’s career advisement, how to complete a residency application, or using the services of the Wellness and Counseling Center, RUSM has resources to advise and mentor students.” She believes that an active, supportive relationship with a mentor can impact the career trajectory of medical students. “Daniela’s patient care skills are exceptional, and I’m gratified she’s found our relationship helpful in dealing with any challenges she’s faced during rotations, as well as matching, choosing a specialty, and her career choices.”
Besides serving on the RUSM Alumni Council and organizing future mentoring committees to match alumni with students, Dr. Woo now is the Third Year Internal Medicine Clerkship Director at Cleveland Clinic Florida, where she’ll meet with students completing rotations to act as an advisor, answer questions, and present cases.
Future steps on the medical career path
Jimenez urges other RUSM students to ask for help when it’s needed. “Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Reach out to professors and alumni to consult with them and get their perspective.” Looking forward to beginning her residency in July 2022, she feels the most important thing Dr. Woo taught her was to be true to herself and her patients. “She was a terrific role model and teacher. I learned that listening and making patients feel heard is the best healing method.”
Now a hospitalist, Dr. Woo will continue guiding Jimenez at Cleveland Clinic Florida and wants to become more involved in medical education and the residency program. “It’s wonderful to know that we’ve created a connection, and I think it will grow stronger during Daniela’s residency.”