Confidential Peer Assistance Program

CPAP logo. When you need to talk to someone.

Need someone to talk to? We're here.

The Confidential Peer Assistance Program (CPAP) is an organization of University of Minnesota medical students who provide confidential, non-judgmental support to fellow students looking for assistance in coping with school and non-school related questions and stressors.

What we offer

We are students like you who can identify with many of the same stresses you may be facing. If you need someone to listen, are concerned about yourself or a classmate, have academic concerns, or need a referral to an appropriate health professional, CPAP is there for you. All student members are available 24 hours a day—you can contact us for any reason and at any time by phone, email, or in person. We will assist you as best we can. All contacts with CPAP members are strictly confidential. CPAP is not part of, and shares no information with, the medical school administration...

Contact CPAP

  • Contact a Member:  To consult with a CPAP peer, look at the list below for names, bios and contact information (email provided with each bio). If you do not hear back in a timely manner, contact the CPAP staff advisor (Scott Slattery, slatt008@umn.edu612-626-7196) for coordination assistance.
  • "Drop In" opportunities:  Each week, CPAP members will make themselves available for informal, "drop-in" consultations (no scheduling needed). Look for weekly email indicating the times, locations and peer assistants who will be available - then just stop by.
  • Email:  If you have a quick question or need a resource, feel free to email CPAP at cpap@umn.edu. One of the peer assistants will get back to you as soon as possible.

Confidentiality notice:  All communication with CPAP members will remain completely confidential.

Contact us for concerns about:

academics

assault, harassment

balance, burnout

chronic health issues

   

career

cultural, acculturation

disability

family demands

financial concerns

   

mood, mental health

relationships

transition, adjustment

unexpected life events

 


Aakash Deshpande, class of 2019, deshp048@umn.edu

  • cultural, acculturation

Hi all! I'm Aakash Deshpande. I grew up in Plymouth, MN and went to the U for an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering. From a chronological perspective I am a very traditional student as I matriculated right out of undergrad. Some of my experiences prior to medical school include protein engineering research, volunteer work with kids with muscular dystrophy, global health experiences, and volunteer work as an EMT. 

In my free time I like to read, listen to and discuss music, play video games (the Dark Souls series and competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee being my favorites) and board games, as well as play soccer and basketball. 

Feel free to contact me if you ever want to meet up in some form to talk about anything - school related or not!

 

Ashley Santilli, class of 2018, santi092@umn.edu

  • balance, burnout
  • mood, mental health
  • unexpected life events

My name is Ashley, and I am originally from Eagan, MN. I went to the University of Wisconsin – Madison for undergrad and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Psychology. During my time in college, I was a mentor for freshmen and transfer students to help them accommodate to a new school and different environment.

My older sister had a chronic disability, so I understand the impact that chronic illness and disability can have on an individual and a family. I am passionate about quality of life and believe that maintaining an appropriate balance is very important.

I love my dog, coffee, food, going for walks, and TV shows. I think being able to connect with people who understand what you are going through can be extremely helpful in any situation.

I know how difficult, tiring, and wonderful medical school can be, and would love to be able to help in any way I can and be someone who is here for you. Feel free to contact me whenever!

 


Ben Shapiro, class of 2018, shap0087@umn.edu

  • balance, burnout
  • disability

I went to UW-Madison for college and majored in Psychology. I have a special interest in the mental health aspects of health care.

I had a difficult time adapting to the demands of medical school during my first semester but have since come a long way in figuring out how to fit medical school into my life.

If you are going through any sort of difficult time (academic or other) while in medical school, rest assured that you are not alone! I am here to listen to whatever may be going on and help in any way I can.

 

Bill White, class of 2018, wawhite@umn.edu

  • academics
  • assault, harassment
  • balance, burnout
  • chronic health issues
  • mood, mental health

I grew up in Kaneohe, Hawaii and moved to Minnesota in 2006 for my undergrad years. After graduation I worked in basic research in evolution and ecology; a personal experience with chronic illness changed my priorities and led me to apply to med school.

I've known depression and have close family experience with anxiety and trauma. I've nurtured long-term romantic partnerships through those and the many transitions of life. In recent years I've tried to find more peace, joy, and ease despite life just speeding up. Every topic and every question is welcome, but some of my particular interests include: self-care; mental health maintenance; personal health as an encompassing lifestyle; mindfulness and seeking joy in difficult circumstances; maintaining life balance; accepting the self as unconditionally worthy and sufficient; cultivating a positive, beneficial philosophy of life; and meditation.

If any of this sounds right to you, drop me a line! I'm more fun than this makes me sound, and I want to hear your story.

 


Bryan Lucas, class of 2019, lucas160@umn.edu

  • assault, harassment
  • chronic health issues
  • career
  • disability
  • financial concerns
  • mood, mental health

Hello and glad you found your way here! If you’re in need of someone to talk to, bounce ideas off of, vent some frustration, or seek support from another student you’ve come to the right place. Part of my reasoning for becoming a peer counselor was based on my experience from my first year of Medical School. I didn’t have a great support system, i.e. family, friends, mentor, etc (not being from MN) or know much about the resources available for the issues and concerns that can arise during this journey we’re partaking in. So I’m here to try and provide whatever support I can to those experiencing difficulties/distractions with: commuting, house/family demands, financial or disability concerns, cultural/transition adjustments, self-care & mental health issues, being a non-traditional student, or an out-of-towner – among other things.

Originally born in CT, I moved to Hong Kong when I was 11 and haven’t stopped since with visits to California, Virginia/DC, and Guam among other places. My first time in DC was during college and 9/11. This led me to take a leave from school and venture into a business entrepreneurship. It was fun, but not my passion, so I signed a 6 year enlistment in the Navy. That’s where I found my passion for medicine, especially Emergency Medicine, and have been pursuing it since. I moved to MN with my dog, Atlas, to begin Medical School in 2014. After first year, I decelerated to focus on some personal issues outside of school. I’m excited to get back in the race and continue towards my goal of becoming an MD!

If any of this sounds familiar or interesting I’d be glad to share more of my story. But, I’m more interested in hearing about yours! As well as what we can do together to help enjoy this Med School adventure because happiness should be part of the journey, not the destination.

 

Crystal Donelan, class of 2018, donel010@umn.edu

  • assault, harassment
  • balance, burnout
  • career
  • cultural, acculturation

I attended Hamline University as an undergraduate where I majored in International Management and Biology, and earned a Certificate of Proficiency in Spanish. (This has lately needed some major work though!) After graduating I worked in hospital administration where I learned a great deal about healthcare: ethics, business, politics, insurance politics and policies, and other inner-workings of healthcare.

I find the difficulties of medical school enjoyable because I know I want to be here and have made the right choice for myself. Although this came with some sacrifices including my dog, a salary, my beloved apartment, and the ability to dictate my own travel schedule (not based on when school is not in session).

I am interested in global health, and am involved in many of the interest groups and initiatives of the medical school. In my free time I work out at the gym, cook and bake, eat at innovative/creative restaurants, travel, search for good dark beers, and generally adventure around to activities, seminars, talks, dinners, shows, and museums of interest.

I had a great mentor throughout my first year who was supportive and encouraging, partially through listening to me and offering suggestions or helping me come up with ideas for how to make medical school work for me. I would be happy to do the same for someone else.

 

Daniel Volovets
Daniel Volovets, class of 2019, volov013@umn.edu

  • balance, burnout
  • culture, acculturation
  • chronic health issues
  • mood, mental health

Hi! My name is Daniel and I’m from Minnetonka, MN, but I am also a first-generation Russian/Jewish immigrant. I went to the University of St. Thomas for undergrad and graduated with a B.S. in Neuroscience. For the past 15+ years, I’ve also performed and taught classical/flamenco/jazz guitar professionally, so I’ve had to figure out how to balance that with academics and personal life. Finally, I’ve dealt with both a disability — a lifelong stutter — and chronic health issues throughout my life. My professional interest is mental health. And since all of the above sounds super serious, I should add that I love to play video games and make every effort to keep that love alive even in med school!

I’d love to help with any difficulties you may be going through and to just be present and listen. I also know how difficult/scary it can feel to reach out, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch and share your story!

 


Eugene Zheng, class of 2019, zheng212@umn.edu

  • cultural, acculturation
  • transition, adjustment

Hey! My name is Eugene Zheng. I grew up in various places in Minnesota – moved around a lot – but currently hail from a small town of 3,000 people in central Minnesota. After high school, I attended Dartmouth College in rural New Hampshire. I spent a year working at a start-up company before matriculating to medical school.

In every transition I’ve made, whether it was moving with the family or shipping myself to the east coast for college, relationships and community have always been a stabilizing force in my life. For that reason, I’d like to invite anyone who might need a listening ear to reach out to me.

Outside of class, I remain active through various sports, my church community, and exploring the metro area. I can’t promise that I’ll completely understand everything that you’re going through, but I promise to be present and earnest.

 

Evan Eide, class of 2018, eidex115@umn.edu

  • balance, burnout
  • career
  • financial concerns

Hello! I hope that by visiting this page and talking to fellow classmates, you will realize there are people who have faced a wide array of challenges while in medical school. Whether or not these challenges match your situation, your classmates, the faculty, and we as CPAP mentors all want to help you succeed. There is a tremendous amount of support available (even outside the CPAP program). For example, my body buddies for anatomy and my FCT facilitator were people I could confide in during my first year.

CPAP is here to reassure you that facing difficulty is not uncommon and that seeking advice or help is in no way shameful. Getting through medical school is a team effort, and we will support each other in our future careers as well.

Part of what fueled me to be a CPAP mentor are the stories I've heard from people who felt they had nowhere to turn in a crisis. It saddens me that this happens too often in our world, and I think this situation has no place in our medical school.  All of us at CPAP are here to help or simply share a listening ear.

If you have a concern (no matter how big or small) or any questions, please contact any one of us!  Note - I will be a ways away during the academic year for RPAP in Perham, MN but am still accessible by email anytime!

 

Hope Ukatu, class of 2018, ukatu003@umn.edu

  • balance, burnout
  • cultural, acculturation
  • transition, adjustment

Hi there! My name is Hope. I grew up in Roseville, MN and attended Cornell University, where I majored in Biology with a concentration in Neuroscience. After graduating from college, I taught for one year at Urban Prep, a public charter high school in Chicago for Black/African American boys.

I am currently involved with SNMA and UMN ExPECT, a group that teaches physiology topics to middle school students. I love teaching, as well as cooking new foods, using my sewing machine, learning yoga, playing my violin, and painting when I have the time.

Without a doubt, some of my most daunting academic and emotional challenges occurred during my first semester of medical school. Since then, I’ve discovered that connecting with others, finding meaning in my work, eating healthfully and staying active are a few things that act as “pillars” for my overall well-being and personal sense of balance. I would love to help you find your pillars!

If you find yourself struggling with burnout, academic or emotional concerns, or anything else that has you feeling like you could use some encouragement or a listening ear, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

 

Jia-Shyuan Su, class of 2017, suxxx200@umn.edu

  • mood, mental health
  • relationships
  • unexpected life events

Hi, my name is Jia-Shyuan, but I go by Josh. I grew up in Woodbury, a suburb of St. Paul, MN. I attended Carleton College in Northfield, MN and graduated with a major in chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry. In college I flirted with the idea of medical school but wasn’t sure this was the route I wanted to take. Following the passing of my mother during my last term at Carleton, I took some time off from school after undergrad to attempt to deal with my grief and returned to competitive rhythmic gymnastics for a year. I then pursued a Master of Science degree in biomedical sciences from Tufts University in Boston. My education at Tufts helped solidify my decision to pursue a career in medicine. I started medical school in the fall of 2012 with the class of 2016 but have since decelerated my medical education and am now a part of the class of 2017.

During my time here I have held leadership positions in several student interest groups and can help you figure out if that is something you want to do. Attempting to balance schoolwork and life outside of school along with struggling with depression, I’ve learned a lot about myself and about how to survive medical school along the way. Medical school is arguably one of the most challenging graduate/professional school programs, and finding a school-life balance that works for you is a part of that challenge. I have struggled with finding this balance more so than most of my incredibly talented classmates and I am eager to share my experiences and the knowledge I gained along the way with those who find themselves also struggling to find this balance. I am also free to discuss dealing with depression and anxiety, grief, loss, and/or long-distance relationships while pursuing a medical education.

In addition to practicing yoga I enjoy biking, hiking, singing (very poorly), and eating good foods whenever I get the chance. If not for medicine, I would ideally be a professional baby panda hugger.

 


Lauren Poniatowski, class of 2017, ponia002@umn.edu

  • career
  • family demands

Hi, my name is Lauren and I am from Blaine, MN. I attended the University of Minnesota for undergrad and grad school and participated in the FlexMD program.

In my free time I enjoy traveling, hanging out with my dog and listening to music.

I understand the challenges we all face navigating through medical school and would like to offer my support through listening and helping to find resources for any questions or concerns that come up.

 


Lisa Obasi, class of 2019, obas0004@umn.edu

  • assault, harassment
  • cultural, acculturation
  • family demands
  • mood, mental health
  • relationships
  • transition, adjustment

My name is Lisa and I was born in Newark, NJ but raised in Woodbury, MN. I am 100% Nigerian and proud of it. I went to Saint Mary’s University of MN in Winona, MN and graduated with a Bachelor of Art in Biology and Chemistry. After undergrad I took a year off and worked as a medical scribe which was great experience.

I love making people laugh and helping individuals through whatever is bothering them. I am completely open to discussing any topics but I have experience discussing being bicultural, the ups and downs of medical school, depression/anxiety, and issues surrounding sexual violence/assault. Again, I am open to anything and no topic is stupid, so feel free to contact me!

 

Lucas Labine, class of 2018, labi0039@umn.edu

  • balance, burnout
  • cultural, acculturation
  • financial concerns
  • transition, adjustment

Hello! My name is Lucas, and I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life. From growing up in Arden Hills to earning my undergraduate degree in bioproducts engineering at the University of Minnesota, I have learned to love the Twin Cities and all it has to offer. The path I took to medical school been more or less “traditional” in terms of timing (matriculating right out of undergrad), although my previous experiences were not always medically related (such as landscaping, ethanol research, camp counselor).

My time so far in medical school is not only centered around academics, but also around my fellow peers and future colleagues. Having their support has made transitioning into professional school doable, and in fact, enjoyable. In addition, I’ve found that keeping involved in activities I enjoy such as running, playing sports, traveling, and spending time with both old and new friends has been immensely important. If you ever would like to grab a drink/coffee to talk about anything, school or not school related please feel free to contact me – I am always willing to meet!

 


Mackenzie Diekmann, class of 2019, diek0036@umn.edu

  • academics
  • assault, harassment
  • balance, burnout
  • chronic health issues
  • career
  • financial concerns
  • relationships
  • transition, adjustment
  • unexpected life events

I’m Mackenzie. I was born and raised in St. Paul, MN as the oldest of six kids. I fancy myself a mother hen, though some of my siblings may resist that notion. I didn’t get too far from home for my undergrad education at St. Ben’s, a smallish liberal arts college in central Minnesota. I studied natural sciences and Spanish. I was employed as a resident assistant in the dorms for half of my tenure (mother hen) and also took the opportunity to study abroad in Viña del Mar, Chile for a semester. I graduated in 2013 and spent two years working as an ED scribe and nanny prior to starting at the U.

Since starting medical school, I have come to realize that I may not be as much of an extrovert as I have always perceived myself to be. I treasure my classmates and my study groups but I’ve discovered I also need time by myself to process and decompress. I love adventure but I also love sitting on my patio and reading with a solid cold press. I find my brain works best when I take the time to move my body (exercise) and feed my tummy (I spend a lot of time in my kitchen). This photo was taken at Camp Goodtimes, where I have spent a week volunteering for the last three summers. Camp is towards the top of the list of things that keep me motivated when school feels all too overwhelming. I thrive on hearing about what has brought other people to medical school and how that contributes to their forward movement on this journey.

 


Mai Kau Yang, class of 2019, yang5013@umn.edu

  • academics
  • career
  • cultural, acculturation
  • family demands
  • transition, adjustment

Hi! My name is Mai Kau. I am from Fresno, CA. I received my bachelors of science at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. I stayed for graduate school and earned my masters degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology. My research as a graduate student involved histochemical analyses of glucoregulatory neurons in the third ventricle of db/db chinese hamsters with hyperlipidemia. Before starting my first year of medical school, I worked at a pharmacy in Fresno whose primary patient populations were Hmong and underserved. I am the eighth of nine children and I love spending time with my family.

As an out-of-state, non-traditional, and underrepresented medical student, I went through my fair share of struggles during my first year. There were plenty of times when I missed my family and struggled with balancing the American and Hmong aspects of my life. Additionally, as a student who was formally trained in research and basic science, I had to adjust to studying clinical science. If you’d like to contact me, I’ll always make time to talk to you!

 


Marie Wilson, class of 2019, wilso938@umn.edu

  • balance, burnout
  • transition, adjustment

Hey! I’m Marie Wilson. First off, whatever the reason, I’m really happy to learn that you’re seeking support! Before we get to you and why you’re here, let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m what they call a ‘non-traditional’ student, as there were 5 years between when I graduated undergrad and began medical school. I spent those years earning an MPH and teaching public health. While I remained in the academic world since college, flipping back into the role of a student was a substantial adjustment.

As such, I understand the academic and emotional challenge that beginning medical school presents, especially if you’ve taken some time away from being a student. So what I’m saying is if you’re struggling with the transition, let’s chat. Of course I’m more than happy to talk about other reasons you may be seeking support, as well. Again, so glad you’re here now and looking forward to hearing your story.

 


Merry Huang, class of 2019, huang807@umn.edu

  • academics
  • balance, burnout
  • mood, mental health

Hello! My name is Merry. I've lived in Minnesota for the past 11 years, but I am sad to say that I no longer like snow as much as I did when I was a kid living in Maryland. Unfortunately, I did not get much of a break from the snowy winters when I went off to college in upstate New York at Cornell University. During my free time, I like to go for runs outside, do acrylic painting, and water my indoor plants. I am very happy to be back in Minnesota for my medical training.

I understand how stressful and isolated medical school can sometimes be. I believe that it is very important to remain connected to peers, and that a strong social support network is key to a happy and healthy medical student. Mental health is very important and having emotions and feelings are natural components of being human. Everyone will encounter difficulties in life, and I want to remind others that it is normal to feel frustrated and confused at times and that you are certainly not alone in having those feelings.

I am more than happy to be an open ear and will be here if you would like to vent, chat, or look at photos of cute corgis together.

 

Michael Downey, class of 2018, downe089@umn.edu

  • balance, burnout
  • disability
  • family demands

Hey! I’m Michael Downey. I grew up just outside of the cities and went to undergrad out on the east coast (a small school in VT). I’m somewhat of a non-traditional student in that I took a couple of unplanned years in-between undergrad and med school - and am very glad I did. 

In high school, my mom struggled with breast cancer and was not deemed in the clear until halfway through my college years. That experience definitely shaped me in many ways but it is only part of who I am today. I love to run and be outside - and am a pretty big nerd who finds most things funny.

 


Nicole Baldwin, class of 2019, baldw204@umn.edu

  • balance, burnout
  • chronic health issues
  • mood, mental health

Hi there! My name is Nicole, and I am from Hibbing, MN, where my parents are both doctors. When I was 3 months old and my dad had only worked as a surgeon for one year, he suddenly developed severe myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) after a viral illness and hasn’t been able to work since. But seeing how much of a passion he has for learning and how much of a blessing he can still be for people, I now know that even if something happens that hinders or ends my medical education, it is worth it. I have been doing research on ME/CFS, and enjoy walking with patients who have lost their former life.

I went to St. Olaf College for undergrad and then directly to medical school. In med school, I have learned to find a deep joy and peace in my work, by not putting my identity in my work but doing it as a gift. I can only do that with lots of support from my faith, family, friends, and people I meet in the community who help me keep perspective. I think healthy strength comes from receiving help in weakness.

My special interests are purpose, chronic illness/challenges of your own or a family member, mental health, and balance, but for many other topics too I would love to be there as a listening ear and a support.

 

Stephanie Kerkvliet, class of 2018, kerkv007@umn.edu

  • cultural, acculturation
  • family demands
  • relationships
  • transition, adjustment

Hello, my name is Stephanie. I am from Chanhassen, MN, and I attended Saint Louis University in Missouri for my undergraduate degree. I studied public health, and I really enjoyed making some wonderful friends. After graduating college in December of 2013, I moved back to Minnesota where I worked as a home health aide in a small assisted living home for about 8 months before starting medical school in the fall of 2014.

Throughout medical school, I have struggled with balancing the limited amount of time between school, family, friends, and other activities I enjoy. However, I have found that living by my philosophy to put people first and to work hard with confidence that the rest will fall into place has allowed me to successfully navigate my journey through medical school thus far.

I would love to offer any insight I can to anyone struggling with balancing school and relationships or with any other advise I can give. I am always available to offer a listening ear, encouraging words, or a home-cooked meal.

 

Susan Metzger, class of 2018, metz0148@umn.edu

  • balance, burnout
  • mood, mental health
  • relationships

Hi, my name is Susie and I'm a second year medical student interested in psychiatry and neurology.

I'm open to talking through any life issues that can complicate handling the stressful demands of medical school - personal relationships, moving adjustments, family emergencies, etc.

Outside of class I enjoy running, playing tennis, reading philosophy/literature, and. I'm also an avid traveler, having traveled much of Eastern Europe and recently having spent time in West Africa.

Feel free to contact me!

 


Uyen Trong, class of 2019, truon138@umn.edu

  • academics
  • chronic health issues
  • career
  • disability
  • family demands
  • unexpected life events

Hello! My name Uyen. I have lived in Eagan, MN all my life and went to undergrad here at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities for Biomedical Engineering and minoring in biochemistry - so I have been around for a very long time. I took a gap year after graduating in 2010 where I spent the time to prepare my application and go through the process.

Medical school is something I never fully thought I could do given my chronic health challenges and abilities, but I have always loved the field of medicine (particularly pediatrics) and working with people (particularly kids). Since I could not see myself in another role, I found ways to overcome and adapt to balance the best I can between my health and school.

MS1 was definitely challenging for me where besides managing all my appointments, I experienced typical medical student struggles like feeling inadequate when not doing well on exams (or even practice exams), stressing out over small things, making new friends, trying to make time for family and school while not feeling guilty about each, and missing out on things. I found it really helpful for me to talk to someone I trusted, who I know would understand and was going through the same experience.

Overall, I am a pretty open book – if you are curious or want to ask me anything, I most likely will give you an honest (possibly lighthearted) answer. So don’t be afraid! I am free to listen and talk about anything.

 

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