By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director
First, let’s get things straight — it doesn’t matter that Garrett is eventually going to med school.
Even though Thomas had originally considered it, then decided against it, then decided to go the CLM track, then eventually graduated in 2020 with an MHA from the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health, which led to him becoming a health care administrator in South Carolina.
None of that matters at all.
What matters is Thomas and Garrett can joke about these differences, and that Thomas can still be there for Garrett — to answer questions, give advice or just listen when needed. After all, that’s what a mentor does, right?
“It’s something we bonded over, CLM,” says Garrett Anspach, a junior CLM major from northern Indiana. “We got along well from the first time we met.” CLM is Clinical Leadership and Management, which has transitioned over the years from a bachelor’s in Community Health, and then Health Administration, to its current title.
This semester, Garrett just completed his Management Competencies class, where the notion of the mentor was introduced. Garrett was matched up with Thomas, and a friendship was born.
Here’s the idea: Around the sophomore or junior year, about 25 current students in the CLM program were matched up with alumni by their professor based on their answers to survey questions, which concerned things like career goals, where they want to live and what they look for in a community.
After being matched up, the pairs were on their own — they could meet as frequently or as an infrequently as possible, mostly via Zoom, for as long as they saw fit. Some became friends, like Thomas and Garrett.
“Becoming a mentor, I just thought it was such a great idea,” says Thomas Corbett, a 2018 CLM graduate from Louisville. “I know that personally, on the day before I graduated, I was still trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. It would have been incredible to have someone there to talk with — someone who really knew what I was going through.”
Now, Thomas says, Garrett won’t face that problem. Even if he never knows exactly what he wants to do, Garrett will always have someone to talk with — someone who’s been down that road before.
Typically, Thomas says, their conversations involve some small talk, but not too much. “I appreciate that he’s trying to go to med school and I’m doing the daily grind here in my job,” he says. “We try to keep our talks to about 20 minutes total, if we can.”
After chitchat, they get into any current questions, which could cover everything from work to life.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot,” says Garrett, who will graduate in 2022. “Whether it’s advice, or just bonding over how we both have had to get used to learning and working in different states, it’s been very helpful. He’s also been able to review my resumes for internships and help me with interview tips. I got three offers this summer.”
“There’s very much a sense of pride in that,” Thomas says. “When he called me with his offers, we were thrilled.”
And that sense of pride won’t end here, Garrett says. It will be passed on.
“It’d be really cool to become a physician, then come back and be a mentor,” he says. “Maybe I could help someone follow in my footsteps.”
Sarah Kercsmar, PhD and CLM Program Director, says the alumni help make the program special.
“Our CLM alums are a very engaged group and we saw an opportunity to formalize their connection to the CHS and our current students in a unique way by providing the students with ‘real world’ guidance and support as they approach graduation,” she says. “We also hope that this program will grow some of our alums into being future preceptors! We strive to have a ‘pay it forward’ culture in the CLM program.”
“There’s such a sense of pride in being able to obtain knowledge and then pass it on,” he says. “It’s a huge opportunity to give back, and I think it’s our duty in the health care field. We’re trying to be leaders, and this is just another way to do that.”