THE POWER OF GRATITUDE
Practicing gratitude and showing appreciation is key to building resilience, reducing stress, and enhancing empathy. This wall is for you. What are you grateful for today? Please grab a pen and write it here. (see image below)
On August 15, 2017, the day after classes began for MCW’s first-year medical students in Milwaukee, a large whiteboard was unveiled at the Milwaukee campus.
About a year prior, Cassie Craun Ferguson, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics (emergency medicine) and director of the Quality Improvement and Patient Safety Pathway, and then third-year MCW-Milwaukee medical student, Samantha Crouch, reached out to Joseph Kerschner, MCW provost and executive vice president and dean of the School of Medicine, with a simple idea to improve mental health.
“The research around gratitude and its impact on mental health is really astounding,” Dr. Ferguson wrote to Dr. Kerschner. “We have done some work around this in our section, but I wonder if we might incorporate this idea into the medical school? I wonder if we might be able to create a living ‘gratitude’ wall where students, employees, faculty and others could be encouraged to write something about what they are grateful for – and could also read what others are grateful for. It is simple, but incredibly powerful,” she shared.
This inquiry was all it took to set in motion making the wall a reality. The installation of the Gratitude Wall was timed to coincide with the beginning of the 2017-2018 academic year on the Milwaukee campus. In advance of revealing the Wall, Dr. Ferguson, Samantha and Dr. Kerschner presented during the first Foundations of Clinical Medicine class, sharing their thoughts behind the meaning and purpose of the Gratitude Wall. Students were then encouraged to write their thoughts on the Wall that day – and any other day going forward.
Each time the Wall is full, a photo is taken for archiving, and the board is wiped clean and ready to be filled again. The Wall’s story has been shared with many other groups of students, faculty and staff, and they have been encouraged not only to write on the Wall when they have a chance, but, more importantly, to incorporate the Wall’s meaning into their efforts as part of the MCW Family.
BY STUDENTS, FOR STUDENTS
Over 115 MCW graduate students took advantage of a new professional development opportunity designed by their peers.
On May 16, 2017, the Graduate Student Association (GSA) hosted its inaugural Graduate Student Symposium. Developed and run by the GSA, this student-centric event aims to nurture communication skills, providing a unique opportunity for graduate students to interact and present their research with one another in a forum they may not typically have available to them.
“Our goal was to bring together graduate students with varying backgrounds, providing a professional development opportunity to present in a large format to an audience who may not have the same technical background,” shared Daniel Schill, chair of the Student Symposium Committee and PhD student in the cell biology, neurobiology, and anatomy department.
The symposium was filled with 16 oral presentations, a keynote address delivered by John Kirby, PhD, professor and chair of the department of microbiology & immunology, and opportunities for participants to view 54 poster abstracts. Participants were exposed to a diverse range of topics spanning the research continuum and awards for outstanding oral and poster presentations were granted.
“Because the student attendees were from every department at MCW, it was a beneficial experience to tailor my presentation to a broad audience that ranged from biochemists to physiologists to epidemiologists. Presenting with this big picture perspective helped me determine how my studies connected with others on campus and gave me more practice on “selling” my research to a diverse audience,” says James Miller, MSTP student in the department of biochemistry.
The collaborative symposium was a made possible by a number of sponsors: MCW Graduate School, Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR), Clinical and Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin (CTSI), Neuroscience Research Center, MCW Marquette Medical Alumni Association, Protein Foundry, Women in Science, Department of Biochemistry, Department of Biophysics, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology & Anatomy, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences Program, the Neuroscience Doctoral Program, and the Student Symposium Committee (Daniel Schill, Rebecca Schill, Dawid Chabowski, Natalie Nawarawong, John Egner, Michael Curtis and Mike Reimer).
The GSA looks forward to the second year of the symposium and potentially expanding to a larger audience. “The first event was a great start and we can only go up from here,” said Daniel.
HELPING STUDENTS GRADUATE WITH THE ABILITY TO HANDLE THE STRESS AND RIGORS OF THE JOB
The concept is simple: if you are well, you can better take care of your patients. However, behind this sentiment is a complicated issue that involves staggering statistics - the medical student depression rate is 15-30% higher than the general population and more than 500,000 patients lose their doctor to suicide each year, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“Physician suicide is very high overall, so MCW created the Student Wellness Program in January 2016 to provide medical students with the tools and resources they need to learn to cope with the stress of the job,” explained Koenraad De Roo, MCW Student Health and Wellness Coordinator.
Students play an integral part in what types of tools and resources are provided. The program design is based on input from the Student Wellness Committee, which consists of representatives from each class on each campus, as well as student surveys.
Activities include mindfulness meditation elective, massage sessions, therapy animal visits to relieve stress, yoga classes and presentations on nutritional food prep. Students are kept in the loop of everyday health tips on exercise, stress relief and nutrition through email newsletters, the MCW Student Wellness Facebook page and calendar, as well as a new Student Health and Wellness website.
“In addition to serving as a necessary outlet during the stressful years of medical school, the Student Health and Wellness Program at MCW-Green Bay has been an essential component of building community here – it gives us an opportunity to do stress-reducing activities across classes and build a stronger sense of support for all the students here,” shared Kirsta Hoffman, MCW-Green Bay medical student and member of the student wellness committee. “This is an incredibly important program for the success of medical students here, and I would love to see it grow and continue to support students.”
As the newest MCW campus, students at MCW-Central Wisconsin did not waste any time in getting events specific to the campus up and running.
“What the executive board really wanted was to create something that gave back to the students for all their hard work and dedication in the ever constant battle of balancing studying, community service, and navigating/pioneering a new program in Central Wisconsin,” shared Stephanie Strohbeen, MCW-Central Wisconsin medical student and Treasurer and Liaison of the MCW Student Wellness Organization of Central Wisconsin.
The Student Health and Wellness Program has rapidly expanded to provide services for not just medical students, but to serve the entire MCW student body.
As the program continues to grow, additional services will be offered to improve students’ overall well-being.
SCHOLARLY PATHWAY PROGRAMS FOSTER SHARED STUDENT LEARNING EXPERIENCE
MCW is one of the few institutions in the country that educates pharmacy and medical students in the same building. We took advantage of this to incorporate a staple of an MCW education – the MCW Scholarly Pathways program – into the School of Pharmacy curriculum.
Thursday afternoons are reserved for the MCW Scholarly Pathways program, where one Thursday per month is for interprofessional learning and the others are for individualized experiences. Pharmacy students complete a longitudinal Scholarly Pathways course along with medical students, allowing them to direct their experience by selecting their preferred topic of study from the courses offered.
Offering Scholarly Pathways for pharmacy students was over a year in the making. School of Pharmacy representatives were incorporated into four of the eight Pathways offered at MCW-Milwaukee to determine which areas would be most applicable. They worked hand-in-hand to address things like staffing and IT needs and how to blend the three-year curriculum into the four-year MCW-Milwaukee Pathways model.
“A big consideration when incorporating pharmacy was to ensure it was applicable to both pharmacy and medical students. We found that it aligned well because there is a stronger focus on patient care skills at MCW than with traditional pharmacy curriculums,” says Stefanie George, PharmD, BCPS, assistant professor and faculty Scholarly Pathways liaison in the School of Pharmacy.
The MCW School of Pharmacy selected four of the eight MCW-Milwaukee Pathways that best aligned with the pharmacy curriculum: Bioethics, Health Systems Management & Policy, Quality Improvement & Patient Safety, and Urban & Community Health.
Information on the Scholarly Pathways was shared with applicants during the School of Pharmacy admissions process. This stood out to first-year pharmacy student Tyler Jones.
“None of the other pharmacy programs I interviewed at had anything similar to the Pathways and I really saw it as an opportunity to focus on a certain discipline within the pharmaceutical field,” he explained.
First year medical and pharmacy students select the Pathway that is of most interest to them and their career path after attending Introduction to Pathways (ITP) in the beginning of the academic year. At ITP this year, pharmacy students attended an overview session on each of the four available Pathways, with each session offering students a deeper exploration of Pathway expectations, and a chance to meet directors and older students. The final event of ITP is a Project Fair that is part poster session with completed projects, part recruiting event for new/ongoing projects. Only after being exposed to all the options and attending the Project Fair, can students begin self-enrolling in a Pathway.
Throughout the program, there is continued focus to ensure medical and pharmacy students benefit from the same experiences. All students participate in Core Sessions together where there are six total monthly didactic and small group sessions that range from large group lecture, small group activities, field trips, and interprofessional education experiences with other professions.
“Pathways provides students another opportunity to work with teammates at the same level. All physicians are going to work with pharmacists in caring for their patients. Through Pathways, students are able to gain an understanding of what the other student knows and contributes to patient care and vice versa,” says Patricia Lye, MD, professor of pediatrics and director of scholarly activities. “We are excited to be able to provide this interprofessional education opportunity that we haven’t been able to before.”