After Brett Henderson, D.O.’15, received the names of alumni to contact from DMU alumni director Ronnette Vondrak, he applied his scientific background and research experience in utilizing those alumni as mentors.
First, he gave careful thought to his questions. “I’d gotten a research job at Mayo this past summer, and I wanted advice on academic medicine, rotations and Mayo itself,” he says. “At this point, it’s good for me to think about where I want to do rotations and contacts I can make at those places now.”
“The mentors I’ve met have put themselves out there to talk with students like me, and I appreciate that.”
Henderson, who worked several years as an x-ray technician and CT technician before enrolling at DMU, welcomed advice from Mayo staff Jolene Smith, D.O.’10, an anesthesia resident, and Danielle O’Laughlin, PA-C’09.
“I made it clear I was a physician assistant and not a D.O., but we talked about my rotations, about the Mayo system and living arrangements for residents,” O’Laughlin said. “I’m always willing to help someone with similar interests and backgrounds as mine.”
Smith agrees. “I will always be willing to talk to current students or pre-medical students, because I remember how stressful it was to venture out,” she notes. “Having the ability to talk to someone who has gone through it and share their experiences helps them know what is possible and eases the burden a little.”
Henderson makes sure all his contacts know he appreciates their help. For contacts who are researchers, he always reads their papers first. For all mentors, he thinks of his questions before they talk and always sends thank-you notes.
“The mentors I’ve met have put themselves out there to talk with students like me, and I appreciate that,” he says.
He’s “paying it forward” by taking prospective DMU students to breakfast on their interview day and by hosting them in his home during their visit.
All these types of mentoring reflect well on DMU as well as benefit the recipients. “I would encourage every alum to allow current Des Moines University students to contact them,” Smith says. “It helps keep the reputation of the University high when you are able to promote your current residency or occupation by saying, ‘This is where I am now, and we started from the same place.’”