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UMass Medical School students mentoring young mothers in Worcester

By Megan Bard

UMass Medical School Communications

August 22, 2019
Gianina Monestime and Emily Adler

A group of UMass Medical School students have dedicated themselves to guiding and advising teen mothers. The Mentors for Young Mothers student group facilitates health education workshops and discussions at residential programs for teen mothers in Worcester.

“Mentors for Young Mothers has been the highlight of my medical school experience, and the lessons I have learned from working with this often overlooked population are invaluable,” said Emily Adler, a second-year student in the School of Medicine.

The group was started as a capstone project by Gianna Wilkie, MD, SOM ’16, and has since evolved into a legacy project that involves establishing relationships with local nonprofits, including You, Inc., a private behavioral health and educational services agency in Central Massachusetts. Adler and Gianina Monestime, a fourth-year medical student, have taken the reins of the group.

“Mentors for Young Mothers is an amazing way to get involved in the Worcester community in which we spend so much time learning and growing as full-time medical student-doctors,” said Monestime.

Judith Savageau, MPH, associate professor of family medicine & community health and an advisor to Mentors for Young Mothers, said the students are gaining valuable insight through working with the community.

“Many of our medical students eagerly seek ways to become involved with the greater Worcester community through various projects. This is one way that students begin their training to become physicians as advocates, one of the medical school’s core competencies. Mentoring young mothers in ways that bring evidence-based curriculum directly to this often overlooked and vulnerable group provides our students with both knowledge and skills in how an intervention may result in positive health-related outcomes,” said Savageau.

Monestime and Adler often work with You, Inc.’s Teen Parent Supported Living Program, which offers support, mentoring and guidance to young mothers who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The transitional program provides supervision and a safe environment to prepare these young mothers for independence.

“These moms have experienced a lot, even at their young age. Any information we can give them through Mentoring for Young Mothers is a benefit,” said Dawn Lane, a You, Inc. house parent who works closely with Adler and Monestime to coordinate educational sessions and events. “The medical students have been so consistent and are spoken so highly of by the moms that they have raised the bar for us.”

“A special thanks to Emily for delivering an amazing variety of topics during our group night discussions and for inspiring mentoring ability. She’s a true teacher. We say that she adopted us, but she’s always quick to say that we adopted her,” Lane said.

Adler said she is interested in pediatrics.

“I am passionate about working with underserved youth and interested in how stress from childhood adversity affects health and learning,” she said.

Monestime is pursuing a career in obstetrics & gynecology with a focus on high-risk obstetrics, health disparities and social determinants of health.

“My passion within medicine has always been working with underserved communities in the urban setting. Mentors for Young Mothers allows me to do just that while fostering connections with young mothers experiencing homelessness and empowering them to make positive change in their lives and the lives of their children,” she said.