Surgical Education

eHealth Mentoring: Building pathways to health professional careers for Aboriginal youth

Principal Investigator: Sandra Jarvis-Selinger

Co-investigators: James Andrew, Lesley Bainbridge, Lee Brown, Michal Fedeles, Kendall Ho, Tim Michel, Helen Novak Lauscher, Robert Woollard

Collaborators: Dona Jules, Samantha Kaji, Don Maki, Norman Lewsey, Kelly Wadham, Kerrie Charnley, Sue Hanley, Michelle Derosier, Kate Schrauth, Indy Sekhon, Charles Au, Howard Yan, Jordana Zbarsky, Katherine Wisener

Objective: To pilot an online mentoring program (eMentoring) for Aboriginal youth and evaluate its effectiveness in supporting transitions into post-secondary health science programs. Taking advantage of the ubiquity of the Internet to connect youth with role models they may not have otherwise met, telementoring or ‘eMentoring’ can potentially provide Aboriginal youth with the support, knowledge and confidence they need to succeed in university.

Background: Education is widely considered the most important social determinant of health because of its power to determine future employment, income and social status. High school graduation is viewed as a key indicator of this determinant and is strongly linked to improved health status, longer life expectancy, lower health care system usage, and use of preventative medical services. Currently, Aboriginal youth face challenges completing high school and attaining minimum entry-level requirements for university enrollment. Consequently, Aboriginal learners are underrepresented in university programs, a trend most apparent in health sciences. Over three decades of research has shown mentoring to have a positive effect on a wide variety of youth outcomes, but particularly in improving school attitudes. Electronic mentoring or ‘eMentoring’ has emerged as popular alternative to face-to-face mentoring, offering advantages such as eliminating geographic and scheduling constraints and a reduction in social inhibition to discuss personal issues open and honestly. Given the societal shift toward electronic communication and the ubiquity of the Internet, eMentoring deserves to be explored in further detail as a timely alternative to traditional mentoring.

Research Plan: The proposed intervention targets Aboriginal youth at the critical developmental pathway stage between the ages of 11-18 in collaboration with Aboriginal health stakeholders and communities. One hundred mentor-mentee relationships will be established in urban and rural BC, which will be developed and maintained in collaboration with, an established eMentoring platform. Mentors will receive training and support through enrollment in a for-credit health science course offered through the UBC College of Health Disciplines. Mentor-mentee relationships will last a minimum of one year, and consist of semi-structured online discussions/activities. Process and impact evaluations will seek to understand:

1) Best practices for implementing an eMentoring model in Aboriginal communities through stakeholder documentation of the implementation process;

2) Efficacy of technology-enabled engagement, to appreciate challenges and opportunities for the use of eMentoring as a viable alternative to traditional mentoring; and

3) Efficacy of eMentoring in promoting awareness, interest and enrolment in post-secondary health science programs, through objective measures (e.g., grade point average) and self-reported data (e.g., perceived value of math/science/English on career path).

Outcomes: We hypothesize that connecting Aboriginal youth to mentors using technology will improve Aboriginal high school graduation rates and enrollments in post-secondary education through improved academic performance, more positive attitudes toward science and staying in school, and increased emotional skills. Considering the close connection between high school graduation and health outcomes, we anticipate that eMentoring will also improve participating individuals’, schools’ and communities’ health.

Timeline for eHealth Mentoring (PDF)