Wellness Wednesday: Finding Wellness in Your Own Backyard

This is the first post of a special three-part OMSA wellness series.  

Medical school definitely has its highs and lows... but your peers & colleagues have your back!  In this blog post, we highlight the multitude of medical student-driven wellness initiatives across Ontario.  

The following initiatives were also previously presented during the Student Initiatives Panel during the OMSA Wellness Retreat on Mar 29, 2015.

The OMSA Wellness Committee has also put together school-specific wellness resources in one handy place - click here to access printable copies of the resources available near you.  Print them out for yourself, pass them around to your friends, and spread the word!

University of Ottawa - Humanities Enhancing the Art of Learning (HEAL) 
Kayla Simms [slides]

Facebook: www.facebook.com/HEALMedEd
Twitter: @HEALMedEd
Email: healmeded@gmail.com

Humanities Enhancing the Art of Learning (HEAL) is a student-initiative within the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine working to develop the humanities and wellness components of formative medical education. Our aim is to empower medical students to find and give expression to their own ‘voice’ as a source of self-care and resilience.

To prioritize skills of insight, trust, and an understanding of the human experience of suffering, there is a pressing need for enriched humanities exposure in the training of healthcare professionals. Aside from the numerous pedagogic outcome benefits, including enhanced communication and empathy, the humanities also promote a unique form of healing.

An interdisciplinary field of medicine, the Health Humanities draws on the creative and intellectual strengths of diverse disciplines in pursuit of medical education goals. HEAL is proud to be a part of the student-led arm of a comprehensive inter-linked Humanities program at the University of Ottawa. The newly implemented Medicine & Humanities program has enabled students with a keen interest in exploring the arts and humanities (beyond the integrated curriculum) to achieve special recognition for their commitment to this interdisciplinary field.

Join the Health Humanities movement.

University of Toronto - Student Affairs Liaison Team (SALT)
Paris Lai [slides]

The Student Affairs Liaison Team (SALT) is a student led initiative at the University of Toronto. Our mandate is to promote student wellness, academic skills development and career exploration in collaboration with the Office of Health Professions Student Affairs (OHPSA).

SALT’s student-delivered initiatives include peer tutoring, monthly wellness seminars and workshops, among others. For example, SALT has facilitated mindfulness sessions for students, a session where students can discuss their emotional struggles with cadaveric dissections, and yoga sessions in the past. We have also held sessions where upper year students come to speak to first and second year students to provide helpful tips and guidance as students go through training. SALT also hosts an annual Resiliency Week where speakers are invited to lead workshops and to discuss how to keep healthy and well throughout one’s education and career in the medical field.

SALT’s events have been very successful and well received by students as indicated by attendance and feedback. In the future, we hope to have more wellness events for students going through clerkship, and integrate events related to physical wellbeing. We would also like to explore ways which we can utilize social media to help strengthen wellness and resiliency.

Queen’s University - #keepsmewell, a positive habits wellness challenge
Alyssa Lip

The Queen’s School of Medicine #keepsmewell Wellness Month was a month long student initiative targeted at fostering positive habits in the daily activities of medical students, physicians, and support staff. In teams, participants completed weekly and daily challenges aimed at promoting daily healthy practices in multiple aspects of their lives. Each week, challenges focused on a different pillar of wellness - nutritional, mental, physical, and social-academic balance. Teams accumulated points with the completion of each challenge over the course of the month. Incentives for this program included peer competition and prizes. There was a large social media component to the program to increase awareness within the medical community with #keepsmewell.

Participants included students, faculty and staff. We had over 35 teams of 4 participate in the month-long program - over 65% preclerk participation! We received very positive feedback and plan to run it again next year.

Look out for our upcoming e-handbook on how to bring the #keepsmewell challenge to your own school!

Northern Ontario School of Medicine - Critical Incident Reflection
Talia Ryan

Critical Incident Reflection Sessions at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine is a program that truly reflects the power of words. Integrated into the curriculum, student-led small discussion groups allow for first and second year students to join forces in face-to face meetings. This is a chance for students to speak aloud any concerns, emotions, worries, fears, and mistakes, but also reflect on change, improvement, and actions for change in the future. Most importantly, these sessions allow the students to ask their peers for assistance in coming to terms with their professional dilemmas.

Students truly do provide feedback and honest reassurance to support their colleagues in their experiences. It comes as a relief to see your peers managing their thoughts about their experiences in similar fashions. Following the verbal reflection sessions, students are asked to provide a written reflection piece. This provides an opportunity to journal after speaking aloud the concerns or critical incident. In addition, these written reflections are integrated so that students can use them to track their personal progress throughout the years.

The goal of these sessions is to maintain reflection in our practices moving forward as students in 3rd and 4th year.  Further, these sessions are designed to hopefully enhance the reflection that students take into their practices, to reflect as a team, and to learn new modalities for reflection moving forward.

McMaster University - C2C Clerk-to-Clerk Mentoring Program
Grace Bravo & Susan Tran 


The transition in medical school from the classroom to a clinical setting can be a daunting prospect for new clerks (CC2s at McMaster). The Mac-Masters Clerk-to-Clerk (C2C) Mentorship Program is a student-initiated, student-run mentorship program developed to target this unique transition point. Upper year CC3s (mentors) are matched with incoming CC2s (mentees) so that new clerks can receive the guidance needed to make their shift into clinical responsibilities a successful one.

Participants across all three of the Michael DeGroote School of Medicine campuses (Hamilton, Niagara, and Waterloo) are paired within clerkship streams based on relevant areas such as specialty interest and shared non-academic interests. In its inaugural year the C2C Mentorship Program recruited 310 participants - 135 Mentors from the Class of 2015 and 175 Mentees from the Class of 2016 (that’s 83% participation from the Class of 2016!). Now, the second iteration of the program is underway with recruitment currently in progress. We are looking forward to holding more social events for participants including collaborations with our Wellness Committee this coming year. To learn more about our program, feel free to check out our website at http://clerk2clerkprogram.wix.com/clerk2clerk !

Schulich School of Medicine - Western Vitals
Julian Surujballi, Daniela Kwiatkowski, Ethan Cassidy & Kevin Dueck

Twitter: @WesternVitals

Email: westernvitals@gmail.com

We are Western Vitals, a project sponsored by the OMSA to support student wellness at Schulich Medicine. For many of us medical school came with a new city, a new group of friends, and - in some cases - a new home. While the pressure of a career in medicine was on the horizon, the challenges of the transition into medical school seemed much more immediate. With that in mind, we were founded in 2013 with the goal of bringing students resources together to facilitate our journey in an easy, efficient and intuitive format. The final product lives on our website, www.WesternVitals.ca. What we’ve created is a central hub that organizes suggestions, resources, and contacts into goal-directed categories: Life Matters, School Matters, Wellness Matters and Crisis Matters. With consistent traffic on our website and in-house workshops, winning awards at the Mental Health 2.0 competition, and of course being invited to the OMSA Wellness Retreat we’ve enjoyed some fantastic moments so far. Going forward we will continue to grow, connecting to even more helpful content and streamlining our interface. Until then don’t be afraid to drop us a line, and don’t forget to check your Vitals!

Special thanks to our contributors Kayla Simms (University of Ottawa), Paris Lai (University of Toronto), Alyssa Lip (Queen’s University), Talia Ryan (Northern Ontario School of Medicine) and Grace Bravo & Susan Tran (McMaster University), Julian Surujballi, Daniela Kwiatkowski, Ethan Cassidy, Kevin Dueck (Western University) and the OMSA Wellness Committee for compiling the school resources.
The student initiatives panel was organized by Cindy Shen (OMSA Wellness Committee Member, University of Toronto).  This post was compiled & peer reviewed by Marie Leung (OMSA Wellness Liaison, Queen’s University).