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Saturday Academy program inspires mentorship

a School of Medicine mentor discusses a dissection activity with five students at the November Saturday Academy


On Saturday, November 18, 2023, 124 fourth to twelfth-grade students gathered at the Eccles Health Science Education Building for the monthly Saturday Academy session. This event, organized in collaboration with the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine, focused on cardiovascular health. The session was orchestrated by four dedicated second-year medical students: Austin Ivey, Grace Bradford, Ming Zhang, and Derek Matheson, who have been actively involved in the Saturday Academy program for two years.

Austen Ivey, Ming Xzang, Grace Bradford, Derek Matheson smile together at the November 2023 Saturday Academy
Left to Right: MSII’s Derek Matheson, Ming Zhang, Grace Bradford, Austen Ivey

Recognizing the profound impact of mentorship on shaping the next generation of leaders, these four medical students have been responsible for fostering an inclusive and supportive environment within the Saturday Academy program. Their commitment to mentorship aims to contribute to the overall success of individuals and the community.

The mentor-mentee relationship within the Saturday Academy provides a personalized learning platform, enabling mentees to navigate challenges, set realistic goals, and benefit from the wealth of experience mentors bring. This mutual connection cultivates a sense of belonging and empowerment, crucial elements in the complex landscape of academia, health sciences, and health care professions.

For student mentor Grace Bradford, effective teaching is a key point of emphasis.

“I had mentors and teachers growing up that not only sparked my interest in science but also empowered me to feel like I could accomplish difficult things, like going to medical school. I was incredibly privileged to have these mentors, and Saturday Academy is a way for me to mentor others,” she said. “The relationships we have with the kids extend beyond just teaching about science. I have had many conversations with students about what it is like to go to college, how to apply for scholarships, and how to succeed in school.”

Mentorship shapes educational decisions for underrepresented groups, transcending cultural differences. Mentors serve as advocates and guides, offering insights into navigating institutional challenges and unlocking opportunities. This relationship fosters empowerment and resilience among minority mentees, helping them make informed educational decisions, overcome obstacles and tackle systemic barriers.

Ming Zhang stressed the importance of reaching out to a diverse group of students for mentoring relationships within Saturday Academy.

“Many students in the program come from underrepresented populations in medicine, providing volunteers with more opportunities to ensure inclusivity and diversity,” Zhang said.

Derek Matheson said the significance of mentorship is dual, impacting both mentee and mentor.

Austen Ivey leads a group of students through a jump rope activity at the November Saturday Academy
Austen Ivey leads a group of students through a jump rope activity at the November Saturday Academy

"Working with students and leaders from other health care disciplines has given me the chance to prepare for collaborating in an interdisciplinary team as a future physician," he said.

This underscores how mentorship within the program enhances the experience of graduate student mentors. Engaging in a mentoring role offers a chance for personal and professional development, enabling mentors to enhance their communication skills and cultivate leadership qualities. Furthermore, this approach encourages a sense of responsibility and accountability, prompting mentors to reflect on their academic journey and share valuable insights with those following in their footsteps.

"Saturday Academy is a great way to practice disseminating information effectively. If I can't explain information in a way that the person in front of me understands, whatever knowledge I may have will be useless,” said Austen Ivey. “Saturday Academy allows me to become a better teacher and, hopefully, a better future physician."

Through mentorship, the Saturday Academy program, hosted by University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, not only contributes to mentees' success but also the holistic development of graduate student mentors, creating a supportive network among graduate students, fostering a collaborative and inclusive academic community.

The next Saturday Academy is on January 20, 2024, and will feature the College of Nursing. Registration can be found on the Saturday Academy page

Photos by Jasmine Harris, MSIS

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Chris Harris, MBA

Jan 02, 2024 11:31 AM