Appreciation dinner held for volunteers serving as mentors for OUWB students
An image of two OUWB Prism mentors
Jay Eastman, M.D., (left) and Matthew Denenberg, M.D., are both pediatricians who serve as PRISM mentors.

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, a special event recently was held to thank and celebrate the volunteers who spend countless hours serving as mentors to OUWB students.

Specifically, they serve in these roles through the school’s program, “Promoting Reflection and Individual Growth Through Support and Mentoring” (PRISM).

PRISM provides a multi-layered system of support, along with a four-year curriculum that focuses on personal growth, wellness, and career development. Monthly sessions create opportunities for reflections and small group discussions.

There are eight PRISM groups for every class at OUWB, with each led by a volunteer mentor who sticks with the group throughout medical school — starting with giving students their first white coats during orientation and ending with hooding those same students four years later at commencement.  

During the appreciation event held Feb. 22 at Meadow Brook Hall, 40 current PRISM mentors and guests enjoyed networking with each other prior to dinner and brief comments from Christopher Carpenter, M.D., Stephan Sharf interim dean.

He identified the PRISM volunteers as “valued members of the school who contribute to the success of OUWB.”

“You are not simply volunteers…you are volunteers who have carved out time from your busy schedules to inspire the next generation of physicians,” he said.

“On behalf of OUWB, and especially our students, I thank you for your commitment to the PRISM program,” he added.

Why volunteer?

An image of Dean Carpenter at the Prism event

Christopher Carpenter, M.D., Stephan Sharf interim dean, thanked the PRISM mentors. 

To be a PRISM mentor, an individual must be a Corewell Health physician, a member of the OUWB faculty, and have the capacity to attend monthly sessions. (More information about the program can be found here.)

Varsha Karamchandani, M.D., a psychiatrist, PRISM mentor, and course co-director, explained why PRISM is so important at OUWB.

“Medical students need a sense of direction, and our PRISM mentors are role models who offer all of the right things that we want,” she said.

“What we hope with mentors is that students feel supported and cared for so they can model this and there is a ripple effect,” she added.

While networking at the appreciation dinner, mentors reflected on why they feel it’s important to serve in the role.

“I wanted to serve as a good, positive influence on these young physicians,” said John Tu, M.D., internal medicine doctor and mentor for members of the Class of 2024.

“The earlier you can guide and steer them in the right way, chances are they will become better physicians,” he added.

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Melissa Bayci, M.D., OUWB ’15, is an OB-Gyn and serves as a PRISM mentor for members of OUWB’s Class of 2027.

She said she remembers how much PRISM meant to her, which is why she wanted to give back.

“I felt very fortunate to have the PRISM course when I was a student and I wanted to give back to the next generation of physicians,” said Bayci. “I really like the idea of being able to coat them in their first year and hood them in their fourth year and see, and be part of that growth.”

Berkley Browne, Ph.D., associate dean, Student Affairs, and PRISM course co-director, said the hope is that — through the special dinner — the mentors felt appreciated by Carpenter and the PRISM leadership team.

“It was heartwarming to be able to demonstrate our gratitude with this dinner and such beautiful surroundings like Meadow Brook,” she said. “It seems that everyone had fun and enjoyed being able to spend time with each other outside of the normal routine, and for us, being able to create this special moment for our PRISM mentors to offer our thanks was a success.”

Matthew Denenberg, M.D., chair, Pediatrics, OUWB, and PRISM mentor for members of the Class of 2026, said it was “great to feel appreciated” — and connect with other mentors.

“We’re here for the students and the appreciation part of this is great,” he said. “But the best part is just to get together and see like-minded folks who are here to help the students and the next generation of physicians.”

Interested in being a PRISM mentor? Contact Julie Jagmin, coordinator, at [email protected].

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected].

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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