Doctors mentor Covenant Scholars about medical school

March 5, 2008 — Media representatives are invited to cover a class in which five of the top doctors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill take time out of their clinic schedules to help low-income undergraduates decide whether medical school is right for them.

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Concerned that students of lesser means have little or no access to mentoring and advice that comes easily to other students, the doctors have donated a minimum of an hour a month since October to advise interested Carolina Covenant Scholars about the ins and outs of preparing for and attending medical school, life as a doctor, other careers in health care and choosing the right career. Besides the class, some of the doctors also have Covenant Scholars shadow them in clinic.

The sessions draw from 12 to 40 students from the Covenant program, in which UNC covers all financial need for admitted students whose family’s incomes are at 200 percent of the federal poverty level or less. More than half the scholars are the first in their families to go to college.

Among 28 faculty mentors to the Covenant students campus-wide, the doctors work as a team, donating their mentor stipends of $1,000 each per semester to buy dinner for the scholars to enjoy during the classes, held from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“We’re really motivated to give this class,” said Dr. Marion Couch, Ph.D., an associate professor in the medical school’s otolaryngology department, who heard about the Covenant on WUNC and recruited friends to the medical mentoring team. “It is very rewarding to be able to reach out to students and make an impact in their lives. I think that’s why we’re here.”

The doctors are:

  • Couch, a surgical oncologist who specializes in head, neck and thyroid surgery;
  • Dr. Bruce Cairns, distinguished associate professor of surgery and head of the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals;
  • Dr. Lisa Carey, associate professor of medicine and specialist in medical hematology and oncology and breast care;
  • Dr. Matt Ewend, chief and program director of neurosurgery; and
  • Dr. Charles M. van der Horst, professor and specialist in infectious diseases including AIDS and fungal and viral infections.

Also a frequent speaker at the classes is Dr. Sam Jones, a clinical instructor in surgery.

“These are really some of the busiest physicians in the School of Medicine,” Couch said. “It’s marvelous that they are doing this, and boy, they have to move things to come to these meetings. Many of them have to go back to work after this.”

Visuals: Photos could best be sought after the class, from about 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., when students talk with the mentors. During class a Power Point is shown.

Parking: The eastern parking deck on Manning Drive is open to the public; other spots nearby may be available after 5 p.m. The western deck, across West Drive from the entrance to Lineberger, serves UNC Hospitals employees.

News Services contact: LJ Toler, (919) 962-8589; (919) 219-6374 on site.