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Mentoring program pays off for students and physicians

Looking back on his early years of Medical School at the University of Minnesota, Pete Stiles feels fortunate that he’s had someone to turn to for support and advice. “I lucked out enormously in this program,” he says, referring to the Connections Physician-Student Mentoring Program that paired him with Frank Indihar, M.D., retired CEO and medical director of Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul.

Stiles, now in his fourth year of medical school, is currently applying for an anesthesiology residency and maintains a close relationship with Indihar. “He’s just a wonderful guy—someone you want to be around and model your own future after,” Stiles says.

He and Indihar meet about once a month, usually for dinner or to attend a performance at the Minnesota Orchestra. Stiles says Indihar provides helpful advice and connections. He also credits Indihar with exposing him to different areas of medicine and lining up shadowing opportunities with doctors in a variety of specialties. “He really helped me to develop and find the area of medicine I am interested in,” Stiles says.

More than 100 medical students are paired with physicians each year through Connections. And all Twin Cities physicians are eligible to participate in the program, offered jointly by the Medical School, Medical Alumni Society, Minnesota Medical Foundation, and East and West Metro Medical Societies.

Indihar has been a mentor since the program began more than 15 years ago and has mentored five students. He says the friendships he’s developed with the students, and sometimes their families as well, have been remarkable.

“I continue to participate in this excellent program because I believe it’s helpful to students to have someone ‘neutral’ in their corner to bounce off ideas, concerns, and possible avenues of medical interest,” he says. “But most important, as in any good relationship, I’ve gained a great deal in interacting with these wonderful students.”

This year’s student-mentor duos will have the chance to meet at the 2008 Connections program kickoff breakfast November 14 in the A. I. Johnson Room in the McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota.

Physicians and students interested in participating in Connections are urged to register online or by contacting Katrina Roth at 612-625-0336 or

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