Health and wellness
At Wayne State University School of Medicine, we believe that wellness is multi-factorial and fostered using evidence-based institutional initiatives accomplished through collaboration across undergraduate medical education (UME) departments, in partnership with medical students, and with the strong support of our leadership.
To foster a culture of wellness with a learning environment that supports students directly addresses student concerns and facilitates the personal and professional development of our future physicians.
The leadership structure which supports this objective and wellness program includes three positions within the Office of Student Affairs, all under the direction of the Associate Dean of Student Affairs: Director of Health and Wellness, Director of Career Advising, and Director of Learning Communities. In addition, there is a Health and Wellness Taskforce which includes faculty, class counselors, and three health and wellness representatives from each medical student class who are elected by their peers.
We have made many changes in the last three years, and communicate directly with our student body, faculty, and administration during our annual "In the Loop" summaries. Click below to see what we've been able to accomplish together:
Five main categories of wellness programs are described below:
Professional wellness development
Wellness sessions are a required part of the medical school curriculum, approved by the curriculum management committee, and are specific to each class. This enables the teaching of core knowledge and skills, connections to faculty leading initiatives, and communication of resources with the entire student body. There are 1-2 required sessions for every medical school class annually. Some sessions are in a large group format only, while others involve a large-group lecture/panel which everyone in the class attends, followed by 6-10 concurrent workshops, of which students chose one that interests them. This provides a core curriculum for all as well as student autonomy/choice in wellness programs.
Required large-group session topics include:
Mental Health First Aid Training, Well-being, and Burnout in Medical School, Overcoming Challenges during Training, Medical Student Mistreatment, Taking Care of Yourself and Getting Along with Your Team during Clerkship Year, Coping with Adverse Patient Outcomes, Taking Care of Yourself in Interview Season and Beyond, Wellness and Transition to Residency
Activity-based sessions have included: yoga, HIIT and body weight training, outdoor games, narrative medicine, graphic medicine and other art formats, improv, and music.
Themed group discussions for students who identify as out-of-state, medical student parents, or who chose medicine as a second career, or those who chose a deeper discussion with the large group presenter.
Skills-based sessions include meditation, mindfulness, re-designing your life (workbook), nutrition, and ways to prevent physical injury.
Information-based counselor-led sessions about mental health and wellness resources.
Topics for sessions are picked based on polls of students' interests, input from the health and wellness student representatives, and adjusted based on student feedback of the sessions.
In addition to required sessions, we host guest speakers both in-person and via zoom. These sessions focus on diverse wellness topics and are open as an optional session to the entire student body. Recent speakers have included:
- Alison Van Dyke MD, PhD from NIH who spoke about "Mental Health Coping Strategies: Experiences and Lessons During Medical School"
- Sasha Zhou, PhD, assistant professor at WSU Department of Public Health, who spoke about "Undergraduate and graduate student mental health in the era of COVID-19: Current trends and next steps"
- Arash Javanbakht MD PhD, associate professor at WSU Department of Psychiatry, who led a discussion about "Mental Health in Health Care Providers"
Curriculum changes to foster wellness
A wellness sub-group of the pre-clerkship curriculum committee, led by the Director of Health and Wellness and including student representatives, recommended pre-clerkship curriculum changes to improve student wellbeing. The top 5 wellness initiatives currently running at WSUSOM which are based on these recommendations are:
Consistent communication strategy
- "Weekly Snapshot" class communication for pre-clerkship classes
- Recorded Medtalks to hear and respond to student concerns, describe policies, and share resources
- Monthly Academic Digest and In the Loop emails that provides regular medical-school-wide communication
Programs that highlight student accomplishment
- The PEARLS program acknowledges outstanding student professionalism.
- Difference Makers to acknowledge students, faculty, and staff committed to facilitating success in others.
Student input formally incorporated into curriculum development
- Students are members of the pre-clerkship education committee and meet regularly with course directors to provide feedback.
More support for and consistency of exams
- Students are provided a chance to course-correct, with multiple exams in each pre-clerkship course, scheduling in a consistent order, and expansion of academic support for struggling students.
- Faculty have access to more question options to ensure representative material on regular weekly quizzes, and enable students extra practice with the material.
Enhanced predictability and consistent schedule
- Mandatory dates are sent ahead of the course beginning.
- Reduction of contact hours in years one and two to open time for synthesis of material and self-care.
Optional wellness programs
Throughout the year, there are multiple optional sessions open to the entire student body, which focus on multiple dimensions of wellness and include:
- MedCup – friendly wellness-focused competition between learning communities with monthly challenges
- Med2Med – a student-led group for peer support
- Walk-with-a-Doc – links outdoor exercise with small group mentorship
- Pet therapy – times to connect with a fury visitor at the medical school
- Meditation – counselor-led drop-in meditation sessions
- Yoga/exercise – student-led movement sessions
External support resources
We partnered with Circles of Support to provide two additional resources to the whole student body. EarlyAlert -- a confidential weekly wellness check-in via text with real-time resources provided to students and MyMDtoBe -- regular information sent via email to both students and their chosen supports about what it's like to be in medical school and how best to support their future MD, all coordinated to students' individual WSUSOM schedules. The topics include imposter syndrome, working on a team, preparing for NBME exams, balancing studying during clinical work, and Match Day, among many others. In addition, all medical students have access to the Well-being Index, an anonymous, web-based tool used to evaluate multiple dimensions of distress, designed to measure burnout, provide valuable resources, and allow students to compare their scores to their peers as well as track progress over time to promote self-awareness.
Wellness and student autonomy
More autonomy was added to the schedule based directly on student feedback regarding the need for autonomy for self-care and time to synthesize academic material. This includes:
- A week-long break between quarters for M1, M2, and M3 students.
- Wellness afternoons for M3 students (autonomy to pick one-half day on every 4-week and 6-week clerkship period for self-care)