University Business October 2019 - 13

MENTAL HEALTH

Wellness at med schools: Investing in space
Students and faculty at The University
of Tennessee Health Science Center can
leave their academic cares behind for a
bit as they practice meditation, yoga and
Pilates-or simply relax in a Zen lounge.
It's all part of the new Mind Body Wellness center, which at press time was on
the cusp of opening. Despite the recent
attention to well-being in medical
schools, physical space focused on wellness remains an emerging concept.
Located within UTHSC's StudentAlumni Center, the space emerged from
a desire to help stressed students in need
of more than a workout but not therapeutic support. "We didn't really have
something in between," says Kimberlee
Strome, a Pilates and yoga instructor
who was hired as the center's director in
March. She reports to Executive Vice
Chancellor and Chief Operations Officer
Kennard Brown, who had been thinking
about how to expand wellness initiatives.
"My husband and his father are doctors, and my daughter is in med school,"
says Strome, who is married to Scott
Strome, executive dean of the UTHSC
College of Medicine. "I have a sense of
the lifestyle and how stressful it can be."
All students, faculty and staff of the
university's schools of medicine, dentistry, graduate health sciences, health
professions, nursing and pharmacy can

access the center for free. Besides classes,
activities will include book clubs and
cooking workshops taught by an instructor of culinary medicine. Strome has
organized "YOGAhikes" featuring yoga
practice in between fast hiking bursts.
Attention on wellness
Med school accreditation requires space
for students to meet and relax, says
Geoffrey Young, senior director of
student affairs and programs at the
Association of American Medical Colleges. "But space specifically designed to
address wellness is a relatively new area."
Young, who has worked as a mental
health provider for med school students,
has seen more acknowledgment that
physicians and med students are impacted
by burnout. High rates of depression and
suicidal ideation affect students' studies and patient care. "Physicians are not
superpeople," says Young. "There is this
myth that doctors are not impacted by the
pressures us 'normal' folks experience."
The National Academy of Medicine
has brought stronger national attention
to these issues. Young estimates that general well-being and mental health services-including yoga and mindfulness
programs-have gotten more focus over
the past few years. The past 18 months
has brought more intensity, as national

Wellness room at the University of Cincinnati
Another institution with physical
space dedicated to student wellbeing is the University of Cincinnati
College of Medicine. In the Wellness
Resource Room, students practice
mindfulness meditation, breath
awareness and focus by using
biofeedback programs. The room is
also equipped with a massage chair,
UniversityBusiness.com

light therapy, aromatherapy supplies
and meditation cushions. Students
book individual slots of 15 to 60
minutes.
More on the wellness room and
other UC support programs:
med.uc.edu/academicsupport/
wellness

LET THERE BE LIGHT-Floor-to-ceiling
windows in the Mind Body Wellness
facility at UT Health Science Center
offer views of Health Sciences Park,
where yoga classes have been held.

dialogue about reported suicides of
residents and physicians has heightened.
"I expect to see more programs in the
undergrad space as well," he adds.
Weill Cornell Medicine in New
York-in partnership with the Association of American Medical Colleges,
Associated Medical Schools of New York
and the American Foundation for Suicide
Prevention-convened what Young calls
a first-of-its-kind event September 18-19,
the National Conference on Medical
Student Mental Health and Well-Being
(UBmag.me/weill).
Pre-center promo
At UTHSC, Strome spent the early part
of this semester building excitement for
Mind Body Wellness and its mission.
Department heads have invited her
to kick off staff meetings, for example.
"Three to five minutes of seated stretches
could really help start the day," she says.
Strome also attended student orientations this year to share studio blueprints.
While students are excited about having
a wellness space to visit, Strome says she
does not intend to spend all day at the
center. "I like the idea that I can go all
over campus, find outdoor meditation
spaces and bring the programming to
students and staff." -Melissa Ezarik
More online: Perspective on the
chief wellness officer trend,
UBmag.me/wellness
October 2019 | 13


http://www.UBmag.me/weill http://med.uc.edu/academicsupport/ http://www.UBmag.me/wellness http://www.UniversityBusiness.com

University Business October 2019

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