Carle Illinois College of Medicine Students Learn Real-world Lessons from Clinician Ambassadors

January 19, 2023
Carolyn Gordon, Carle Health
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The value of having a mentor early in medical school is not lost on Carle physician, Warren McCauley, MD. The anesthesiologist attended the University of Chicago for college where his mentor, William McDade, MD, PhD, offered guidance on reducing cultural disparity in medicine.

<em>Warren McCauley, Carle Illinois College of Medicine</em>
Warren McCauley, Carle Illinois College of Medicine

“I am someone who cares deeply about the community and reducing morbidity and mortality levels,” Dr. McCauley said. His mentor is currently serving as the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s (ACGME’s) first chief diversity and inclusion officer.

McCauley moved on from the University of Chicago to complete medical school and residency at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Now he is the mentor as well as a leader in the Carle Ambassador Program for students in the Carle Illinois College of Medicine (CI MED). He calls the opportunity to work with students “a blessing.”

"I am giving them information from my own experience that I wish I would have known earlier. At the same time, their passion for medicine excites me and sometimes prompts me to learn even more about medicine,” he said.

The Carle Ambassador Program started in 2021 as a way to enrich experiences for first-year medical students. They are matched with faculty ambassadors currently practicing medicine who mentor students as they learn about Carle Health’s clinical, educational and research missions. In the first year, nine Carle ambassadors were matched with groups of four to five students. Surveys were done to match interests and regular check-ins are conducted along with quarterly ambassador meetings to ensure engagement.  In order to measure success and continue growth, student surveys are completed.

<em>Dr. Warren McCauley and CI MED student Annabelle Shaffer</em>
Dr. Warren McCauley and CI MED student Annabelle Shaffer

Annabelle Shaffer of Bloomington is in her second year of medicine at CI MED. She was in a group of five that met monthly, and she said the meetings provided connections with other students as well as with their mentor, Dr. McCauley. “He provided a lot of education we do not typically get in a classroom setting,” she said.

“Students at this point in their life need to know the value of teamwork as well as how their decisions today will impact their future well-being and ultimately the lives of the patients they care for,” McCauley said.

Shaffer said the life experience McCauley brings to the group is valued and included topics like improving financial literacy. He bought each student a book written for doctors about how to manage financial investment.

“It’s nice to see someone who has taken on $200,000 in debt and come through it,” she said.

Dr. McCauley said the first year of medical school is often a period of significant adjustment. “It is easy for students to become overwhelmed by the immense amount of medical knowledge to be learned and the numerous resources available to assist them in achieving their career aspirations.”

Shaffer said she knows her choice in medicine will not be easy for her. She plans to be a neurosurgeon in a field where she said studies show over 90% of those practicing in the U.S. are men. She plans to stay in touch with Dr. McCauley and believes many other students will tap into his knowledge as they advance through medical school.