Y’all may have noticed that I’ve been quiet for a while now – especially given the fact that this blog is new. My silence has been the result of many things – school, injuries, personal ‘issues’ (not bad things, don’t worry). Life is busy, you know? But I’m still here, and even though things are still pretty busy, I thought I’d make a quick post about something incredibly important to me: mentorship, and building a better tomorrow.
Almost a year ago now, I applied to be a part of a wonderful program at Dalhousie University – the Health Mentors Program. Essentially, the program exists in order to give people like me – y’know, folks with chronic illnesses and/or disabilities – an opportunity to work firsthand with the health professionals of tomorrow. As health mentors, we get to talk to students from a variety of health disciplines, and share our experiences with them so they can be better prepared for the ‘real world’ once they graduate.
Sounds cool, right?
If you said ‘yes’, you were right! The funny thing is, though, that when I applied, I had no idea just how much the program would impact me, and my life.
Over the course of the past few months, I have had the opportunity to work with a group of young women studying at Dalhousie who hope to pursue careers in nursing, physiotherapy, audiology, and pharmacy. I was able to meet with them and share my experiences as a disabled woman, and as a patient of many folks who work in their future fields. I did so with the goal of helping them to better understand what it’s like to be the patient rather than the practitioner. I wanted to be a mentor to these ladies, and to teach them a couple of things that I just don’t think you can learn in a classroom. I think – or at least I hope that I was able to do that.
But I had absolutely no idea how much they would teach me.
These past few months, I have felt more heard, and more understood than I have in a very long time, and it has given me so much hope for the future of our healthcare system. I feel at ease knowing that the four women I met this year are going to be the ones taking over in the years to come, because not only are they dedicated to their fields, they’re dedicated to their future patients. I know this, because they did what my own healthcare providers have been unable to do for as long as I can remember: They listened to me, and instead of dismissing what I had to say, they took the time to understand as best they could.
Was it part of their coursework? Yes, and I know that. But these ladies were able to tell me my own story in a way that my ‘team of professionals’ never could, and honestly, it was a genuinely touching experience. They were kind, attentive, empathetic, and honestly just wonderful to work with. Talking to them taught me so much about myself, and I have grown so much as a result of my experience.
In fact, the Health Mentors program, and the group of women that I worked with, are part of the reason that I started this blog. They taught me what it feels like to be heard, and I guess you could say I’m hooked, because here I am, sharing my story not only with them, but with all of you.
So, to the organizers of the Dalhousie Health Mentors Program, and more specifically, to the incredible women I met this semester – thank you so much for helping me find my voice, and for giving me hope for a better tomorrow. It has meant more to me than I will ever know how to express.
– Stephanie, ECC