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Discuss Wellness Curriculum in Medical School Interview

Prospective medical students today are keenly aware of the stress and burnout that can result not only from medical school but also from practicing medicine. They are highly interested in ways to prevent or minimize the consequences, which unfortunately include alcohol and substance abuse and even suicide.
Before and during interview day, as well as during a second visit, applicants often ask if the medical school offers programs to help them cope. Lately, however, more and more applicants are asking about stress management programs because they are interested in a medical career that focuses on wellness.
These students want to be part of the solution, working in areas of lifestyle wellness and disease prevention. These forward-thinking students see the roles that nutrition, physical activity and mental health play in life expectancy, disease limitation and overall satisfaction with life.
Medical schools have been behind in educating students in the area of wellness, but they are trying to catch up at lightning speed as millennials – those born after 1980 – progress through their education and careers. Work-life balance strongly affects overall wellness. It has been especially important to millennials, more so than to earlier generations, who were largely motivated by post-World War culture and other generational influences on exploding career demands.
In decades past, nutrition was barely taught at medical schools. Now it is surfacing in most, although some schools are still lagging behind.
Faculty of the past also minimized the role of physical activity in medical school curriculum. They assumed it was understood, and because many of them didn’t take care of their own bodies, it seemed less important.
Now there is increasing literature supporting its role in longevity and improved cognition. Patients with chronic illness benefit greatly from regular exercise programs that are monitored to help the patients who hit hurdles in their routines. Physical activity also reduces symptoms of depression.
Mental health begins with prevention. Nutrition, physical exercise, mindfulness practices and a positive attitude can work powerfully to prevent or minimize dysphoric symptoms.
Although an individual can’t change genetics, he or she can do a great deal to influence environmental stressors and other mental illness precipitants. These topics should have a powerful place in the curriculum throughout all years.
So whether you’re interested in wellness from a personal or career standpoint, here are some questions to consider asking during your medical school interviews:
What do you teach about nutrition and where in the curriculum?
Do students feel adequately prepared to counsel patients about nutrition?
What kind of scientific research around nutrition is the school or medical center involved in?
How is nutritional information delivered to patients and the community?
Physical activity
How is physical activity for students embedded into medical training?
Does the school have students who lead physical activity initiatives?
How is physical activity for patients embedded into the curriculum? For example, is there attention given to the impact of daily cycling on Parkinson’s disease symptoms or fitness classes on diabetic patients?
How is physical activity information delivered to patients and the community?
Mental health
Are strategies such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, relaxation exercises and imagery included in the curriculum?
Is cognitive behavioral therapy included in the curriculum?
How can I connect with students and faculty who have an interest in mental health, particularly those in preclinical and clinical research?
How does the school support students’ education, clinical interests and research regarding mental health?
These questions require the respondent to have adequate depth in their answers. If they don’t know what their school teaches, can they refer you to someone who does? Smokescreen answers likely mean they have an inadequate program that does not meet students’ or patients’ needs.
For example, solid evidenced-based nutrition taught by specialists in this area should be demonstrable in the curriculum’s outline. It’s also important to know how clinical preceptors reinforce this teaching with patients.
You may also consider asking the admissions committee to connect you with graduates who have a particular interest in nutrition, physical activity or mental health and who are heading toward residencies in areas that will lead them to a career in wellness.
Although medical advances have helped millions of people live well into their golden years, it hasn’t necessarily helped them live better. You can do yourself and your future patients a favor by considering how wellness and medicine intersect and how you can integrate wellness into your own life and patient practice.
Tags: education, students, medical school, medicine, mental health, diet and nutrition, health, exercise and fitness.source


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