By Philip Fine

Just as a well sustains a village, the Faculty of Medicine’s WELL Office (Wellness Enhanced Lifelong Learning) has, in recent years, nourished medical students and residents in need of personal, academic or career counselling.

The village it serves is doubling its population.

In an effort to provide learners from all the Faculty’s professional health schools and programs with timely and targeted services, the WELL Office has expanded its reach. Its counsellors now serve 3,500 learners, including 1,600 from the Ingram School of Nursing, the School of Physical & Occupational Therapy (SPOT) and the School of Communication Sciences & Disorders.

A year ago, Debbie Friedman, BSc(PT)’83, M MGMT, became the Faculty’s first-ever Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Schools. She is, with Dr. Namta Gupta, Assistant Dean, Student Affairs, and Paola Fata, MDCM’95, Assistant Dean, Resident Professional Affairs, one of three WELL Office co-directors.

As a first step towards expanding the WELL Office’s mandate, Friedman, who is also Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Pediatric Surgery, met with students from the three professional health schools, asking them their thoughts on healthy learning environments, resources at the University and their identity in the Faculty.

The students told her that they, too, would benefit from access to similar services as medical students and residents, but that these services would need to be tailored to the unique demands of their training and professions.

They also mentioned wait times as a factor. They would need, they said, to be able to access counselling more quickly.

Marie-Lyne Grenier elaborates. Faculty Lecturer and Associate Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education (Occupational Therapy) at SPOT, and co-chair with Sarah Marshall, BSc(PT)’84, MSc’06, Director’s Academic Associate, SPOT, of Healthy SPOT, a committee that develops wellness and promotes diversity within the School, she says students in the schools would sometimes have to wait three weeks to access counselling through other means.

She says many of these students are, for the first time, treating patients who are very ill. If they are interacting with a dying patient, and struggling with it, waiting three weeks to see someone may be too long. “Their stage may be done by that time!”

Grenier points out that students can be coping with a range of other stressors as well, including financial difficulties, balancing part-time jobs with internships and academic life, parenthood, and caretaking of elderly parents.

In June, the WELL Office began to roll out its services for the Faculty’s professional health schools, and made available an evening counsellor, whose hours better suit those on internships or day-time rotations.

“The students love it and they felt it was very helpful, very accommodating of their busy schedules,” says Grenier.

Friedman has just hired a third counsellor dedicated to the Schools, and also plans on introducing workshops and developing proactive curriculum activities with her new Wellness Consultant.

This WELL seems to be in no danger of running dry.


September 22, 2017