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Gabrielle Wilson smiles as she sits across from a student at a boardroom table.

Gabrielle Wilson, a fourth-year Max Rady College of Medicine student, is one of the Gekinoo’amaaged mentors.

Indigenous student mentorship program launches for Rady Faculty learners

October 29, 2021 — 

Ongomiizwin – Education has launched a mentorship program for Indigenous students in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences that will provide learners with a role model they can ask questions and turn to for advice.

Gekinoo’amaaged, which means teaching each other in Ojibway, is the name of the program that matches Indigenous learners with an Indigenous student mentor. The mentors also meet with students interested in entering the health sciences.

“The goal of the program is to build a support network amongst Indigenous students,” said Kimberly Hart, senior lead, Indigenous Health Student Affairs, Ongomiizwin – Education, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. “A student’s story can actually have a major impact on another student, or someone who is aspiring to go into health care. It’s the students that really make a connection and their stories resonate.”

Gabrielle Wilson, a fourth-year Max Rady College of Medicine student, became a mentor because she wants to give back.

“I was mentored by students ahead of me and I think it’s important that I continue that cycle of reciprocity by mentoring students after me,” Wilson said. “Ongomiizwin actually means clearing the path for generations to come and I think it’s important that I continue to uphold that standard so that I can clear a path for future students and hopefully make their time in their programs easier.”

For Evan Loeb, a second-year Dr. Gerald Niznick College of Dentistry student, he wanted to become a mentor because he came to realize how beneficial it is to be able to talk with someone who has been through similar experiences.

“I would like to give back to students because I know Indigenous people are underrepresented in health-care fields and being able to help other Indigenous students brings me so much joy,” Loeb said.

Dr. Melinda Fowler-Woods, director of Ongomiizwin – Education, developed the idea for the mentorship program based on her own experiences. When she was going through university she would have liked to have been part of a mentorship program like Gekinoo’amaaged.

When Fowler-Woods was a resident at McMaster University she became a mentor to Indigenous students and felt that it was a valuable experience for both herself and the students she was helping. Now she wants to provide this experience for Indigenous students in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.  

“I think we have to recognize strong leaders in our Indigenous communities like these student mentors and give them a voice to be able to connect with a community that’s here at the University of Manitoba, and then that should support them within their careers and also within their personal lives as well,” Fowler-Woods said.

Shaylyn Moar, a second-year bachelor of respiratory therapy student in the College of Rehabilitation Sciences, aims to encourage the students she mentors and help them become more confident as they navigate their academic programs.

“I hope that I can provide students with support and empowerment,” Moar said. “I also want to be someone who can provide resources to them, for instance, if they need academic help, like tutoring, or I can talk to them about requirements for the program or provide tips and tricks on how to stay on track.”

When Kelsey Tanner, a recent College of Pharmacy graduate, was studying pharmacy she said she would’ve liked to have had a mentor who she could have received guidance from. After successfully navigating the program, as a mentor, she now wants to help others feel less alone on their academic journeys. 

Tanner said that if students have any uncertainties about becoming a mentee they should reach out.  

“There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain,” she said.

If you would like to request a mentor, please contact Kimberly Hart at kimberly [dot] hart [at] umanitoba [dot] ca.

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