The Summer Mentorship Program, (SMP) a partnership between the U of T Faculty of Medicine and school boards in Ontario, gives high school students of Indigenous or African ancestry a chance to explore health sciences at the University of Toronto four weeks in July. The program was created to help address concerns about the under-representation of Black and Indigenous people within the health sciences. Since 2001, Mount Sinai Hospital has been the largest site for providing mentoring opportunities for these students, taking 16 students per year, or 250 over the course of our partnership.
Mount Sinai was the first hospital to have a wide-scale mentoring partnership with this program, which has now grown to include other sites. For the first 10 years of the program, Mount welcomed half of all SMP high-school students through their doors to explore mentoring opportunities with clinical staff, with the aim of encouraging careers in health care for students who are traditionally underrepresented and an ongoing relationship with the hospital.
The students were able to partner with clinicians including physicians, social workers, pathologists, respiratory therapists and medical imaging technicians, who connected with students 1:1 and also provided group learning opportunities, such as training in our Surgical Skills Centre or discussions with our Ethicist. Students have been embedded in the medical teams on the in-patient medicine units, shadowing residents and physicians as well.
Through this partnership with the Black Student Association, Mount Sinai also became aware of barriers experienced by some University students when applying to hospital-based Volunteer programs. We committed to accepting students from the ‘Community of Support’ (COS), a collaborative initiative with the goal of increasing the number of medical students that are Black, Indigenous, racialized, or economically disadvantaged at the University of Toronto. In this first summer, we will have 10 COS volunteers in clinical areas.
Mount Sinai’s strong commitment to equity made this a natural extension of our other programs which encourage staff representation from otherwise underrepresented groups.