School Dedicated to Helping Students with Wellness, Professionalism

Studies show that physician burnout is a critical issue facing faculty, residents and students, ultimately impacting patient care. - Paulina H. Mazurek, M.A.

Carlos Ontiveros paints during the wellness fair for medical students.

Medical students endure years of unending studying and clinical training while trying to find meaning in their life’s work.

While medical school is incredibly rewarding, it is not always easy. Students may experience high levels of stress and anxiety as they navigate the rigorous medical curriculum. Students are encouraged to address these experiences through self-care, resilience and holistic health.

The Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine recognizes that physicians must take care of themselves to provide compassionate, competent patient care.

“Studies show that physician burnout is a critical issue facing faculty, residents and students, ultimately impacting patient care,” explained Paulina H. Mazurek, M.A., founding director of Wellness and Professional Formation within the Office for Undergraduate Medical Education (UME).

While the school conducted wellness initiatives in the past, Mazurek arrived in July 2018 as the first full-time staff member devoted to wellness.

Joshua Hanson, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for Student Affairs, says, “The recognition of how important it is for students to develop these skills and a framework led to development of this position. In just the first year, Ms. Mazurek has improved our program in innumerable ways. We are really grateful to have her as part of our team.”

During the wellness fair, Gabriel Rheiner visits with therapy dog June, a basset hound owned by Dana Whitmire, a librarian at the Briscoe Library.

Following the Wellness Framework from the National Wellness Institute, Mazurek and her team have created Elements, an online, non-credit course meant to address all dimensions of wellness. “The program educates students on the value that holistic health plays on their personal and professional success. Students are given the tools to embrace a healthy lifestyle and practice positive coping strategies,” says Mazurek.

The goal is for students to take an active role in their overall wellness. Mazurek emphasizes a preventive approach: “We coach students to develop a wellness action and guide them to appropriate resources to reach their goals. We want students to graduate with the skills to prevent burnout in residency and throughout their career.”

She has drawn family members, including spouses and parents, into the system, too, with Family Elements, a program that engages first-year medical student families in the medical school experience. Members receive a monthly newsletter that offers information and resources for families so they know how to best support their students throughout the first year.

Another program that has received a lot of attention is the Food Network. Through a partnership with the San Antonio Food Bank, the Food Network is a one-hour, interactive cooking program meant to promote proper nutrition while learning how to cook in a budget- and time-friendly way. Students are able to cook these meals alongside their peers and enjoy the meals they create together with their peers. Future iterations of this program will expand to interprofessional groups.

The second part of her responsibility involves Professional Formation, a continuum where students internalize the characteristics, values and norms of the medical profession. “The key is self-reflection. Any experience a student is exposed to in medical school–whether it’s personal or professional–is going to shape the kind of physician they are going to be,” she said.

Having “Doctor” before a person’s name and wearing the white coat carries a lot of responsibility. “We encourage students to reflect on all their experiences and make meaning of them.”

In addition to UME’s programs and initiatives, Mazurek and her team collaborate with wellness partners across campus to address student burnout in the health professions. In 2020, the Long School of Medicine will host the statewide Health and Wellness Exchange, a program sponsored by the Texas Medical Association, that will bring together medical students, residents, physicians and faculty from multiple institutions to explore ways to cultivate well-being across all levels.

Christiana Fahkri (from left), Paulina Mazurek and Madeline Hazie answer questions from students at the Rediscover Wellness Fair in October in the Holly Auditorium foyer.

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In the 2019 issue of Future

Future is the official magazine of the Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Read and share inspiring stories highlighting our medical alumni, faculty and students who are revolutionizing education, research, patient care and critical services in the communities they serve.

View the 2019 issue

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