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Mentor program leads to valuable connections

James Klaas, M.D.

For recent Medical School graduate James Klaas, M.D., the practice of medicine is a lifelong journey. And thanks to his mentor, neurologist Paul Schanfield, M.D., Klaas is certain he’s found the right path.

Klaas met Schanfield when he joined the Connections Physician-Student Mentoring Program as a medical student in 2005. Over the next two years, as the duo met regularly and exchanged e-mails, Schanfield helped shape Klaas’s perspective on medicine and, ultimately, his career choice.

Before meeting Schanfield, Klaas says, he’d had limited exposure to the neurosciences. But Schanfield’s enthusiasm for the field led him to explore neurology.

Paul Schanfield, M.D.

“The brain is kind of the next frontier. I was excited by that and wanted to be a part of it,” Klaas says. After graduating last May, he started his neurology residency at the Mayo Clinic. “[Schanfield] is the kind of doctor I hope to become. He’s been absolutely great.”

More than 100 medical students are paired with physicians each year through the Connections program, offered jointly by the Medical School, Medical Alumni Society, Minnesota Medical Foundation, and the East and West Metro medical societies. All Twin Cities physicians are eligible to participate— and returning mentors say they gain as much as they give.

Schanfield, a Medical School alumnus from the Class of 1971 and an eight-year veteran of the Connections program, appreciates what the students teach him. “The students are optimistic, idealistic, and they help people care about patients’ lives,” he says. “University of Minnesota residents and students always remind me why doctors go into medicine.”

This year’s student-mentor pairs will have the chance to meet at the 2009 Connections program kickoff break fast December 11 at the University’s McNamara Alumni Center.

To participate or learn more, visit or contact Katrina Roth at 612-625-0336 or

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