I start medical school today (!!!!!!!!) and I am so so happy I am at SLU.
One of the first things that attracted me to the program here was during my interview when the Dean of Admissions told us about SLU’s recent focus on medical student mental health. During orientation this past week I got to know even more about it, and it’s even better than I thought.
(View of SLU hospital from the medical school campus)
In the past few years, the associate dean for curriculum here at SLU School of Medicine (SLUSOM) has spearheaded research on medical student wellness and mental health, and taken steps to improve the conditions for medical students here. We are the first medical school (to his knowledge) to actually get data and track improvements in student mental health, using detailed surveys that measure for depression, anxiety and more.
A few years ago when SLUSOM first tracked these areas, it showed depression rates near 30% and anxiety rates above 50%. That’s NUTS. Many people are aware that of the mental health problems in graduate programs (among other places, of course) but once you see that data you can’t deny it. The results were presented to faculty and leadership and not a single person could say they were okay with it.
(SLU School of Medicine)
After these awful statistics were presented, a few changes were made – and I won’t be able to remember all of them. Mainly, SLUSOM went to a strict pass/fail system with no class rankings given. A full day every other week was taken away from classroom work and instead gives first year students the opportunity to shadow, volunteer, or pursue an elective. Fourth year students are given two extra months to decide on the specialty they’ll pursue. Mental health counseling and other resources are available and first year students take a few classes on mindfulness, strategies to manage stress and anxiety, and how to be successful in medical school and beyond.
And guess what happened:
- Anxiety and depression rates dropped DRASTICALLY. Down to 4% in some cases!
- Board scores have improved.
The leadership and teachers are slowly realizing that more is not always better, and that limiting stress and anxiety leads to better productivity and education. SLU is a Jesuit institution that states they will educate the whole person – mind, body and spirit. Now they are really living that by making sure that medical students not only become well-trained physicians, but also better people and more equipped to handle their future profession.
Gosh I am so on board with this. SO happy and grateful and inspired by this! That associate dean of curriculum is continuing his research and now is focusing not only on medical students, but also on residents, other graduate programs and even high school students.
I scheduled a meeting with him last week since I am interested in this work, and it was fantastic. I learned more about his specific research, and he had so many ideas and ways for me to get involved with the wellness focus groups. We have lots of plans and I can’t wait!
I am so confident that SLU is going to be a great place for me. I love being home and feeling comfortable, supported, and connected in my city. I love the classmates and professors I’ve met. I love the opportunities that I now know I have — from standard volunteer work and electives and clubs, to the more specific ways I’ll be able to blend my passion for more holistic wellness and mental health into my medical school career.
Here we go!
Even more on this research: