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College of Health Professions Launches Program to Mentor Students on Health Career Paths

Victoria Martin, left, and Sthefany Delgado, right, are UT Health Science Center graduate students taking part in the HCOP National Ambassadors Program.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Health Professions recently launched the 2024 Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) National Ambassadors Program, an initiative to connect students with mentors in the fields of medical laboratory science, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.

The HCOP National Ambassadors Program is made possible through a $3.2 million award from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the College of Health Profession’s Reimagining Education for Advanced Careers in Healthcare (REACH) Project.

Chermale Casem, MBA, the executive assistant dean of Finance, Operations, and Strategic Initiatives in the College of Health Professions and the program’s director, said she is enthusiastic about fostering meaningful connections between students and mentors in their chosen health career paths.

“Our mentors from our clinical partners within the community have all agreed to help our scholars with career development, networking, and professional growth,” Casem said.

Gloria Jenkins, clinical lab manager at Regional One Health and a mentor in the HCOP program, said she is excited to engage with the future workforce of the allied health field. As an alumna of the UT Health Science Center College of Health Professions, Jenkins underscored the significance of providing a well-rounded experience for students.

“I have always been passionate about volunteering, and there is no greater honor than to serve the students at my alma mater,” she said. “I want my mentee to understand, while academics are important, it is also great to have a veteran in the field to help them navigate those spaces.”

College of Health Professions Dean Stephen Alway, PhD, left, and Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD, back center, joined the students and mentors to celebrate the launch of the HCOP National Ambassadors Program.

“My parents are immigrants and they both lack the medical knowledge needed to teach me how to navigate specific medical spaces, and being a first-generation graduate student, I hope that my mentor can provide me with the necessary tools needed to excel in those environments,” Tran said.

Katelyn Taylor, also a second-year physical therapy student, credited program faculty, Latoya Green, DPT, for encouraging her to apply. Taylor, who is from a small, rural town in Tennessee, said she aspires to provide proper health care in her hometown, drawing inspiration from her personal life.

“My grandfather underwent double knee replacement surgery, but the lack of medical facilities in rural areas means I must drive him to his physical therapy sessions every day,” Taylor said. “The journey takes 30 to 45 minutes, presenting a significant challenge for individuals without adequate transportation options.”

Casem said she hopes the program instills a sense of community service among scholars, particularly those who are first-generation college students. She envisions these students becoming mentors themselves, contributing to the growth and support of future generations of health professionals in their communities.

UT Health Science Center Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD, congratulated the inaugural cohort of HCOP National Ambassador scholars and extended a warm welcome to the dedicated mentors who have volunteered from clinical partners within the community.