Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine will introduce a mentoring program to develop medical students’ interpersonal skills as part of a new curriculum being implemented this fall.

“Through interaction with a senior mentor over the course of their medical school career, our students will further develop skills to help them be better physicians,” said Nancy Van Winkle, Ph.D., professor of behavioral health at OSU-CHS. “This program cultivates interpersonal and clinical skills, which are key traits for successful physicians and important for building relationships with patients.”

As part of the program, healthy older adults are paired with medical students to build relationships throughout their medical school careers. During the fall semester, students will meet with their senior mentor twice to learn about each other and discuss perspectives on the health care system.

“More than half of our graduates specialize in primary care and the skills this program targets are essential for primary care physicians,” said Dr. Kayse Shrum, provost of OSU-CHS and dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine. “The program provides an opportunity for students to learn how to build a relationship with patients that extends beyond the first appointment.”

The program supports the Introduction to the Patient course that students are required to take during the first two years of the medical school. The course develops skills and motivation of medical students to become successful, compassionate and competent osteopathic physicians and life-long learners.

In addition to the senior mentor program, students will work directly with patients during simulations, participate in service-learning activities, facilitate small group discussions, interact with fellow students in the classroom and conduct self-directed learning in a variety of clinical and community settings.

The program is currently looking for healthy volunteers who are age 65 or older to be paired with medical students. To volunteer or to learn more, contact Lesley Vanvolkinburg at lesley.vanvolkinburg@okstate.edu or 918-582-1972.