The College of Medicine’s Student Wellness Committee was originally created to help students feeling acutely overwhelmed with the pressure of medical school.
But with a new group of leaders this year, the committee is looking to engage students early in their medical school careers and give them all the tools they need to stay healthy and well.
Committee members and second-year students Sue Collins, Vitaliy Rotenberg, Alex Kreiselman and Natalie Hood all signed up to be a part of the group in the spring.
As a first year, Hood says she assumed the committee’s services were reserved for students with emergencies.
"I got the impression that the group was just for emotional distress,” she says. "But this year, we’ve had calls about, ‘Hey, how do I study?’ Had I know we could have used the committee for that, I probably would have called several times.”
"Those first months are very overwhelming,” remembers Kreiselman. "You see people do things all different ways … and you’re wondering, ‘Why isn’t this working for me?’”
Now, members urge students to call the line for any kind of help on tackling medical school, from how to study to what kind of study tools work or how to structure your time.
Formerly a pager, the committee’s 24/7 help line is now a Google Voice account. Students can email, text or call the number, and the on-call committee member will get back to them as soon as possible.
"With the help line, they can ask an anonymous question and not feel stupid for asking it—any level of minutia they want,” says Rotenberg.
"On the flip side,” says Collins, "students have the ability to not make their call anonymous. We’re happy to meet with students, talk with them and trade phone numbers. Now they have someone to greet in the hallway—they’ve gained a friend.”
The committee also hopes to encourage student bonding in social events throughout the year. Last year, it held a party after the final exam, bringing in pizza, ice cream and an inflatable jungle gym.
"Pizza isn’t exactly healthy,” says Rotenberg, "but, in terms of wellness, winding down, releasing energy and being with your classmates is.”
This year, the committee will add doughnuts and coffee stations seven times a year, based on the weeks of big tests for first- and second-year students.
It’s also writing a column in the MedCat student newsletter with wellness tips, taking inspiration from the World Health Organization’s definition of health—"a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not just the absence of sickness or frailty.”
"It’s easy to lose sight of the important things, like adequate sleep and proper nutrition, because you’re so focused on needing to study so many hours of the day,” says Kreiselman. "We want to remind students that it’s OK to step away from studying—just for an hour or so—to do those things.”