Go Ahead, Mentor Someone!

The FPHTC Online Mentor Program (OMP) is unique in that all participants self-select their roles as either mentors or mentees. This self-selection process stems from the belief that everyone has the ability to teach someone else something worth learning, and everyone has the ability to learn something valuable from someone else’s experiences. This program encourages professional development in all forms and helps create opportunities that support meaningful mentorships.

Wes Payne, from the Florida Department of Health’s School Health Services, enrolled in the OMP as a mentor in March of 2012. “Looking back over the 20 years of my career, I realize that much about learning how to work in the private and public health arena came from my own experiences,” he says. “My belief is that if I had had a mentor during these early years it would have ‘sanded off the rough edges’ and made these experiences more manageable.”

As a professional in school health services, Payne works to help minimize health barriers to learning for public school students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, including but not limited to childhood obesity, managing chronic conditions in the school setting, protocols for anaphylactic shock and the use of epi-pens, and maintaining an appropriate nurse-to-school ratio.

Photo Credit: Kristine “kchanliz”

As a mentor, Payne hopes to highlight the importance of school health programs as a component of the public health system and the impact it has in schools across Florida. “When one considers children spend many of their waking hours at school, it is important to ensure that there is a system in place that assures that Florida student’s are healthy,” he says.

From the assurance role, Payne is responsible to monitor local school health programs and serve as a legislative analyst for school health related policies.  “On a local level, school health staff work tirelessly to provide direct clinical care and education to students so that they are healthy and ready to learn in the classroom.”

Payne encourages all mentees to develop effective writing skills for all channels of communication – from formal reports to social media correspondence. In addition, he stresses the development of critical thinking skills to help “be confident to handle autonomy, make sound decisions, and find the connection between opportunities you have to learn and how those opportunities will affect your future.”

But regardless of job-related knowledge, “the best indicator of success in the workplace is emotional intelligence,” say Payne.  Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of oneself, of others, and of groups. “[It] is critical to managing your behavior, adapting to various situations, and making critical decisions,” he says.

In general, it is important for future public health professionals to have an understanding of how large systems work and have the abilities to facilitate relationships, solve problems, and assimilate and communicate complex information.

Even as a more experienced public health professional, Wes Payne certainly recognizes the value in having a mentor to keep him in check and help him stay focused in a proactive manner. Good thing he can enroll in the program as a mentee, too!

Want to know if you should be a mentor or mentee? Discover your mentorship role HERE.

A big thanks to Wes Payne for his insights. Click HERE to learn more about the School Health Services.

If any OMP participant has questions or other suggestions, post them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator OMP@health.usf.edu.

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