Today is actually a surprise day off of classes for us. One of our lecturers is out on maternity leave, so we are just watching her lecture from last year online. And to make it even nicer, the other teacher agreed to reschedule his lecture for later in the week. Now we have the whole day away from school. How nice!!
I’ve got a big to-do list I’m working through, but it’s so nice to have a free day to do it all.
SLU Med Wellness
I wanted to talk a little bit more about the wellness initiatives at SLU. I mention fairly often that SLU Med has made huge efforts to lower the rates of anxiety and depression in its students. It’s pretty well known that medical students (and residents, and physicians!) are stressed and tired, but SLU was the first school to ever actually start tracking anxiety and depression data in its students back in 2008.
Dr. Stuart Slavin, SLU Med’s Associate Dean of Curriculum, spearheads the project. What he found was perhaps not surprising, but really upsetting. In 2008, 27% of first year students showed moderate to severe symptoms of depression and 55% showed moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety. Comparing those numbers to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s data that 7.4% of all young adults live with depression and 15% of people deal with anxiety in their lifetime, and it doesn’t look too good.
Armed with that data, he approached SLUSOM’s administration and proposed changes. Starting in 2010, the following changes were made to the curriculum:
- The curriculum is pass/fail in the first two years. This isn’t rare for medical schools, but SLU’s is strictly pass or fail – no high pass or honors. This takes away the intense competition and allows students to be more collaborative, while also freeing up a little time and energy for things outside of the classroom.
- Every other Wednesday off for electives. First and second years choose an elective that interests them and get to pursue it for a few hours every two weeks.
- Resilience lectures were added to the curriculum, teaching students about managing their stress through exercise, nutrition, sleep, and fun hobbies. These lectures address issues such as maladaptive perfectionism also promote being proactive with mental health and seeking help from one of the school’s free counselors should they need it.
- Anatomy is no longer the first course taken in medical school. Anatomy is a pretty intense course, and jumping into medical school it was overwhelming. Now students take Cellular and Molecular Biology first while they ease in, and then take Anatomy later in the fall.
These changes are designed to give students more control over their schedules, enhance camaraderie, and take a teeny bit off pressure off of a very high pressure educational path.
The results were phenomenal! Depression rates have dropped to as low as 4% and anxiety as low as 14%. SLU is really proud of these numbers, considering none of the changes were huge or costly. Even better, average USMLE Step One scores have not dropped, and fewer people are failing the test now than before.
First and second year students at SLUSOM are now surveyed for depression and anxiety multiple times per year. Dr Slavin continues to tackle the issue, and is shifting focus toward the clinical years now.
To say that I am proud of my school is a huge understatement! I love knowing I’m at a place where student wellbeing is valued and our administration really cares.
Here are a few articles on Dr. Slavin’s work: