Medical Student Wellness

The Office for Medical Student Affairs and the Office of Well-Being and Resilience supports student well-being. The Associate Dean for Medical Student Wellness and Student Affairs, Alicia Hurtado, MD, MA oversees the assessment of wellness needs and execution of initiatives. The Associate Dean for Medical Student Wellness and Student Affairs has an active role in key medical school committees allowing for student wellness and mental health resources advocacy.

In order to ensure your wellness, interventions have been developed keeping in mind the unique demands of medical school. Wellness interventions are delivered via lecture or small group educational sessions, email communications, 1:1 counseling and technological interventions. Wellness interventions follow Student Affairs C.A.R.E.S. model of prioritizing: Community, (self-) Awareness, Resilience, Embracing support, Self-care:

Building community within our medical school allows us to support one another, share in the many new experiences you will encounter, and gives us a greater sense of belonging. We build community by:

  • Creating an advising system around Learning Communities
  • Promoting student participation in affinity groups and mentorship opportunities
  • Supporting participation in CIRCLES group sessions during the third year of medical school
  • Supporting delivery of PEERS sessions (longitudinal wellness-related sessions) where the opportunity to build relationships between senior and junior medical students occurs
  • Supporting and encouraging participation in wellness events that build community, such as annual Med Ed faculty/staff/student picnic and Wellness Wednesdays

Increased self- awareness allows you to become more aware of your emotional reactions and emotional state which allows for processing of emotions, and respond more effectively. As clinicians, it is important for us to be aware of the kind of emotional reactions our patients elicit in us and, in turn, help your patients more effectively. We promote self-awareness by:

  • Promoting mindfulness concepts that encourage awareness about:
  • Staying in the moment/present
  • Increased awareness of internalized judgments and practicing moving toward a less judgmental stance
  • Normalizing difficult emotions

These concepts are taught through PEERS, Wellness Advisor sessions, and weekly ASM check-ins where students have an opportunity to see where they are emotionally with the guidance of trusted faculty members and peers.

You are all resilient and know how to overcome adversity and challenges. Our wellness interventions aim to help you further develop that resilience muscle. At ISMMS Resilience building and strength enhancing initiatives include:

  • PEERS curriculum focusing on teaching coping skills and tenets of positive psychology
  • Wellness curriculum with an emphasis on delivering information on relevant topics such as substance use prevention, and post-traumatic growth
  • Development of acclimatization interventions for our students who need more support during our Summer Enrichment Program (SEP)

As clinicians, we are often more comfortable in the care-taking role and helping others. Our hope is to help you become comfortable getting support when needed. Importance of embracing support and identifying support network are emphasized by:

  • Early introduction during orientation about importance of:
    • Identifying support systems based on past positive experiences and identifying individuals that can be helpful during different times
    • Reaching out for support on-going and not just during crisis situations
    • Knowing when to reach out for help
  • Delivery of Keeping It Real series where faculty members talk about a particular challenge that they have faced and how they overcame that challenge by seeking support
  • Staying up-to-date with resources available to you
  • Distribution of “How to Support Your Student” pamphlet for loved ones of medical students that provides tips on how to support your medical student

As clinicians, we are at higher risk for burnout and compassion fatigue. Learning how to care for ourselves while taking care of others, and facing life’s challenges is a life-long skill that will help you not just in medical school, but as you progress in your training and become an attending physician. We emphasize importance of prioritizing self-care by:

  • Wellness Advisor visits that actively promote self-care (exercising, and eating and sleeping well) during 1:1 sessions
  • Increased access to mental and physical health clinics (unlimited visits to our Student Trainee Mental Health Clinic.
  • Decreasing mental health stigma through on-going destigmitization campaign and dissemination of wellness messages that address mental health stigma (ie. addressing mental health in medicine panel and brain and behavior mental health panel)
  • Provide tools such as free access to CALM app for all our medical students in order to address wellness needs
  • Promoting use of our 24/7 day a week counseling and crisis phone line