A key milestone for mentors and scholars

Students and mentors came together for an extended live meeting for the first time since the program began. The meeting of students and mentors for the academic year 2021/2022 became a spontaneous celebration of the beginning of life after the pandemic. Participants used the opportunity to get to know each other, talk about their roles as students and future professionals, as mentors now and in the future, and to wish each other success in the new academic year.

Guests at the meeting were healthcare professionals, activists, young professionals of Roma origin with inspiring stories.

On the first day of the meeting, the guests and moderators provoked the participants to talk and look inward at themselves and their lives so far by drawing their tree of life. We talked about the (un)conscious privileges, about the paths that one goes through while forming as a person and a professional, and also after that.

The participants also talked about the health problems of the Roma communities in the country, sharing personal and professional experience as members of the communities in different parts of Bulgaria, students in health specialties, professionals in health institutions. Barriers to access to education and healthcare in different parts of the country were mentioned more than once. In mixed groups of mentors and students, participants discussed topics such as maternal and women’s health, children’s health, chronic disease prevention, vaccines and access to health information, youth participation in health prevention of health problems and the needs of the youth.

The second day of the meeting was dedicated to the image of successful Roma in the Bulgarian public space and the role of media. We discussed the stereotypes and weaknesses in the representation of Roma in the media and the difficulties students face in recognizing themselves in this public image. We thought about the mechanisms by which everyone can counteract this through their work as a health professional and role model. Dr. Miroslav Angelov, a widely recognized role model and mentor within the program, spoke about his experience with the media and his experiences as a student and now a practicing doctor.

For the finale, the participants enjoyed a performance by the actress Nataliya Tsekova, who was our guest with a part of her one-woman show “Gypsy Wheels”, after which she joined a conversation aimed to inspire for the future, in the company of other professionals in various fields.

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