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What do participants value in a diversity mentorship program? Perspectives from a Canadian medical school

Stephanie Yifan Zhou (Department of Family and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
Anita Balakrishna (Office of Inclusion and Diversity, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
Joyce Nyhof-Young (Office of Assessment and Evaluation, MD Program, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
Imaan Javeed (Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
Lisa Annette Robinson (Department of Pediatrics, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 1 June 2021

Issue publication date: 22 October 2021




As medical schools become increasingly diverse, there is a growing demand for schools to support their equity-seeking students. At the University of Toronto, the diversity mentorship program (DMP) is a new program created to support equity-seeking and diverse medical students in first- and second-year through didactic lectures, networking opportunities and mentorship from senior clinicians. This article aims to share participant perspectives on how diversity-focused mentorship benefits them, perceived barriers and insights for other institutions developing a similar program.


Using a mixed methods design, students and mentors completed semi-structured surveys to assess broad perceptions of their mentorship experiences. Focus groups were conducted with both groups to gain deeper understandings of participants' experiences. The authors performed thematic analysis to identify qualities of successful experiences and barriers to participation.


Most mentors and mentees found the DMP helpful and identified five themes contributing to a positive mentorship experience: (1) accessibility, (2) program diversity focus with clear expectations, (3) career guidance, (4) exposure to different perspectives and (5) community and shared identity. Uncertainty on how to help less assertive mentees, mentorship pair discordance where mentees paired by race did not share racial identities and logistical challenges was identified as barriers to maintaining mentoring relationships.


To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first qualitative study exploring the feelings and impressions of participants in a mentorship program at a medical school addressing the needs of equity-seeking groups. By understanding the characteristics and value of diversity-focused mentorship, this will inform the creation of similar supportive programs across various professional fields at other schools.



The authors would like to acknowledge Shannon Giannitsopoulou for her assistance with organizing the networking events and focus groups.


Zhou, S.Y., Balakrishna, A., Nyhof-Young, J., Javeed, I. and Robinson, L.A. (2021), "What do participants value in a diversity mentorship program? Perspectives from a Canadian medical school", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 40 No. 8, pp. 947-959.



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