Frequently Asked Questions

Student FAQs

General

The Underserved Pathway is a longitudinal curricular and experiential program that supports medical students interested in caring for underserved populations, both urban and rural. Learn about the requirements here.

Students are required to independently track their own progress in the Underserved Pathway using our tracker. Once you log on with your UW NetID, this will take you to your own tracker page. Students should update their trackers once or twice a year, or as they complete UP requirements.

The time the pathway takes will vary from student to student. The design of the pathway is such that many of the requirements overlap with medical school requirements. We estimate that the additional components of the pathway, such as the mentorship, modules, and community service, will take about two to five hours per quarter to complete.

No. While the pathway is administered by the Department of Family Medicine, it is available to all medical students and does not advocate for any particular specialty.

If you are on track to complete the pathway toward the end of your third year, you will receive acknowledgment of projected pathway completion in your Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE or Dean’s Letter). With timely completion of all Underserved Pathway requirements, you will receive a Certificate of Completion, and acknowledgment of pathway participation in the Hooding Ceremony program. See the Policies and Deadlines page for details.

Yes. Our pathway works closely with the Black Health Justice, Global Health, Indian Health, Latinx Health, and LGBTQ Health Pathways. All of the courses and experiences from the aforementioned pathways may be applied toward relevant Underserved Pathway requirements.

You can apply to join the pathway by filling out our student application.

Applications are regularly read by the Program Manager. If you have not heard from us two weeks after filling out your application, email upath@uw.edu to be updated on the status of your application.

There is no competition for entry. See the Policies and Deadlines page for the requirements and deadlines related to enrollment.

As a first-year student, you will have the benefit of a longer relationship with a mentor, more time to complete the non-clinical selective coursework and preceptorship requirements, and the ability to plan for a your scholarly project that focuses on an underserved issue.

If you are an expanded second year or third year student, we invite you to apply to join the pathway. Expanded second and third year students may be able to use experiences from their first year to fulfill pathway requirements after discussing them with the pathway’s Program Manager.

If you are considering leaving the pathway, we strongly recommend that you first speak with someone from the Underserved Pathway Team and your mentor. We understand that the competing demands of medical school can be stressful, and if at all possible, we’d like to provide you with the support you need during this time.

If you determine that pursuing a pathway certificate is not going to work for you, you are free to “audit” the pathway by accessing the online modules and remaining on our mailing list so you’ll receive notices of relevant events.

Your first step should be to talk with your mentor, and second, speak with the Underserved Pathway Program Manager. Together, you can determine if there are other ways for you to meet the requirements you are having difficulty with or if you might be eligible to have certain requirements waived based on your previous coursework or outside experiences.

Mentorship

Yes, we have a list of mentors and we continue to recruit new mentors. If, after you explore options on your own, you still do not have a mentor as you near the end of Foundations, the pathway Program Manager will reach out to help connect you with a suitable mentor.

Mentors are recruited in a variety of ways, including referrals from students, from existing mentors, preceptors, and faculty, as well as professional associations. Sometimes physicians or other health care professionals that work with underserved populations reach out to us directly to offer their experience and mentoring!

Ideally, you and your mentor will be matched for the duration of your time in the pathway (until you graduate). However, we understand that as you progress through your medical education, your career goals and interests will change and you may desire a mentor who matches your new goals and interests. Before you change to a new mentor, please contact us and your mentor to tell us that you’d like to change mentors. Your mentor may have ideas of colleagues who may be able to answer your questions and meet your needs. If you need support or assistance during this process, the Underserved Pathway Team is available to help. Please keep the pathway Program Manager abreast of any mentor changes so that our records are accurate.

A mentoring relationship is like any other, and there may come a point where you find that you and your mentor may encounter personal circumstances that may result in a less engaging or satisfying experience. We strongly encourage you to talk with the Pathway Team about your experiences with your mentor if you begin to feel that your match is no longer suitable. We will encourage open dialogue between you and your mentor and work with both of you to find appropriate solutions. If we cannot help you and your mentor reach common ground, we can help you and your mentor find closure to your relationship and help you transition to a new mentor.

If you are having any difficulty reaching your mentor, please contact the Underserved Pathway Program Manager at upath@uw.edu. Our mentors have a variety of clinical and community responsibilities, which means that they may not immediately respond to emails or phone calls.

The Scholarly Project Requirement

Email the UP Program Manager at upath@uw.edu and provide a brief overview of your project, including the population and topic. The Pathway Team will review and will let you know if your III satisfies the Scholarly Project requirement of the Pathway.

NOTE: III projects completed within the context of RUOP or GHIP have automatic approval for pathway credit. For all other III or for those who have had their III requirement waived, please get in touch to discuss whether your project or research qualifies and what other options you have.

Email the UP Program Manager at upath@uw.edu to set up a time to discuss ideas for an alternative project to satisfy this requirement.

If your III was waived for a project that focused on an underserved population or issue, your III requirement for the pathway may also be waived. Graduate-level capstone projects related to an underserved population will be considered. If your III was waived for a research project that did not focus on an underserved community, a pathway advisor will work with you to develop an alternative project to satisfy this requirement. It is helpful to get started early on this, as your clinical years leave little time for completion of a research project. We recommend you complete this prior to starting clinical rotations.

Other Requirements

If the class you want to take is not on our pre-approved courses list, send the Program Manager an email — before you take the class — at upath@uw.edu to inquire. The Pathway Team will consider your course(s) for approval.

If you do not see a topic in underserved medicine as part of our web-based curriculum, contact the Underserved Pathway Program Manager at upath@uw.edu and let them know your topic of interest. We welcome suggestions for curriculum topics and we especially welcome student leadership and assistance in creating new modules!

Any direct service that is health-related (clinical, outreach, advocacy, leadership and education) and in an underserved community or working with underserved populations is eligible for this pathway requirement.

The service learning/community service/community engagement requirement is meant to get students into underserved communities, engaged with them, seeing first hand the health challenges faced by vulnerable populations, learning about partnership within these communities and the agencies that serve them, and providing needed service. It also includes the reflection about what you have learned.

No, we do not require verification of participation in health/health equity service learning/community service/community engagement.  We rely on the honor system and fully expect that any hours that you list on your pathway tracker spent in community service were hours you actually completed in an underserved community.

Mentor FAQs

General

By providing students with a mentor, we can support and nurture the student’s interest in working with these unique populations. A mentor also serves as a bridge to experiences that increase the student’s understanding about careers with underserved populations.

Mentors are not required to have specific knowledge or skill sets. Openness to sharing your thoughts and experiences with a student is all that is required. For a list of helpful articles and websites on mentoring, click here.

The key is the relationship. Both a mentor and student must choose to work on getting to know each other. The mentor and student must also explore what the student needs from the relationship. The student must understand the strengths and the boundaries presented by the mentor. The relationship will do best if both agree on how to communicate and how often to communicate. It is important that both work to ensure that contact happens and they have goals or questions to discuss.

Broadly defined, mentoring is a sustained goal-driven relationship between two people where one is more mature, for the purpose of providing support and advice concerning personal, academic, career or social concerns.

  • You will explore students’ interests and initial career interests.
  • You will help them to understand more about those interests and perhaps direct them to others who share specific interests.
  • Over the course of the relationship, you will likely learn about their family, friends, and outside interests.
  • You can choose to be available as a resource when they have concerns or want support in life events.
  • You will model how personal growth and experience links to career development and academic achievement.

We expect you to meet (in person, or by phone/email/Zoom) with your student at least once a quarter. We will provide suggestions for topics to cover in those meetings through a quarterly mentor memo. We hope that as the relationship grows, you will discover common interests to discuss. We also hope that the experiences your share with your student will be ones that support the student’s decision to pursue a career with the underserved.

Your student may bring a wide variety of expectations and hopes to the relationship. Your student may be looking for a mentor who can introduce them to working with underserved patients or they may be looking for a mentor who confirms their commitment to underserved patient care. Your student must connect with you on a quarterly basis. That might be by phone, email, or in person. Some students may want to spend time working with you in clinic. We encourage you to talk with your student about their expectations for these quarterly meetings and what they would like to get out of these meetings.

Lastly, as students gain clinical experience, their concerns and goals will change. Understanding the developmental stage your student is in during their medical school career can help you anticipate these questions. Our quarterly memos will include an overview of the major academic events in your student’s life.

You and your student can determine the amount of time that you’d like to spend in your mentoring contacts. At minimum we ask you to connect with your student once a quarter (or every 12 weeks). You can connect with your student in person, on the phone, via Zoom, or by email. Beyond that, together you can decide on additional activities and communication.

Mentor Benefits

Mentors are supported by the faculty and staff of the Underserved Pathway in the Department of Family Medicine. You may contact the Pathway Team with any questions that you may have about your student, the mentoring relationship, and the Underserved Pathway. You will find answers to many of your questions through our Mentor page and this FAQs page. Additionally, through our quarterly mentor memos, we will remind you of important academic events in your student’s life and point you to resources to help your student as they approach these milestones.

Underserved pathway mentors reap a number of intangible and tangible benefits from their experience. The most important benefit is the relationship that you will form with your medical student. Not only will you have the opportunity to influence a medical student’s career trajectory, but you may also experience a sense of renewed enjoyment and commitment to your own career.

Medical students bring current information from biomedical science courses to you through your interactions. As a tool for recruitment, direct contact with a mentor is often cited by students as a deciding factor in their choice of residency or practice in a particular geographic area or with a particular population.

Getting Started

Much has been written about mentoring. What is known is that most successful mentoring relationships are centered initially on a project or a goal. As part of your first meeting with your student, we encourage you to share your goals for the relationship and find out from the student their goals. Use of the GLEAM tool can help get your relationship started off on the right foot. This tool was developed by the University of Washington to help practicing physicians get to know students in a way that will maximize student learning and interaction and has been adapted by the Pathway to help mentors and students meaningfully connect.

Goals

What are your Goals and expectations for this mentorship? What are your goals and expectations for your career? What do you feel are your content deficiencies and skill challenges?

Learning

How do you Learn most effectively? What has helped you succeed? What did you find challenging?
Think about your favorite mentor. What made him/her so effective?
How do you like to receive feedback? What is your learning style? How do you best assimilate material and experience? Where is your learning edge?

Experiences

What previous patient Experiences have been meaningful to you? What worked for you and helped you learn? What seemed to derail you? Have there been other mentors who seemed to be particularly helpful? What about them made that the case? Have the student share a story.

Activities

What Activities are you involved in outside of medicine? Consider exploring the student’s support system. What other roles/responsibilities do you have in your family and community?

More

What More do I need to know about you to make this an optimal mentorship experience for you? What have I forgotten to ask you? Do you have any questions for me?

Your student should contact you every quarter. Should you not hear from your student, it is fine for you to initiate contact. In your initial meeting, please discuss best ways to stay in touch with your student.

We hope that students will visit your clinical site at least once. Some may want to shadow you and we hope that you can accommodate that request. If you are able to have a student shadow you, please contact the Underserved Pathway Program Manager at upath@uw.edu first. Some may ask to do a clinical rotation with you and that may also be arranged. It is fine to have them to your home and to introduce them to your family. Lastly, should there be relevant events in your community, inviting and including your students is an excellent way to model how physicians are involved and engaged.

If you have any activities that were particularly successful, we encourage you to share them with us so we can promote them to all mentors.

See our Mentoring Roadmap for discussion topic ideas.

It is usually fine to have a student shadow you in clinic, but please contact the Pathway Team first to confirm malpractice coverage for your mentee. This is critical if you plan to involve your mentee in care of patients.

 

Students in Difficulty and Mentoring Difficulties

Medical school can be a difficult and stressful time for your student. While some students may openly share their difficulties, others may hide them for fear that they will lose your esteem for them. Some signs that your student may be having difficulty include:

  • Changes in mood: irritable, depressed, and anxious
  • Changes in performance: inattentive, late to meetings, forgets about meetings, fails to meet deadlines for assignments or other tasks

This of course is not an exhaustive list. If you have concerns about your student but are not sure if the student is in difficulty, we recommend that you contact a pathway faculty or staff member to discuss your concerns confidentially. To learn more about resources for students in difficulty, click here.

We ask that mentors maintain their mentoring relationship with their mentee for the duration of the student’s matriculation in medical school. We realize, however, that some matches will not work as well as others and that personal circumstances may necessitate a change of mentor or ending the mentoring relationship.

The Pathway Team will always be available to discuss your concerns and ways to handle them. We encourage open dialogue and will work with both you and the student to find appropriate solutions. If it is an academic, professionalism, or personal concern regarding the student, we may use other resources in the School of Medicine as well.

If circumstances arise that prevent you from continuing a mentoring relationship, please contact the the Underserved Pathway Program Manager to discuss this before telling your student. We will work with you to arrange a mentor transition for the student.