Posted: October 31, 2017

Wellness Matters: Lessons from Implementation of a Comprehensive Student Wellness Program


In the first-annual Biosciences graduate student wellness survey (Feb. 2016), respondents indicated stress (77%), anxiety/depression (52%), time management (52%), and impostor syndrome (51%) as primary barriers to wellness. Most respondents indicated a desire to improve their overall wellness, which was rated at an average of 6.8 out of 10 where 0 = “extremely unwell” and 10 = “extremely well.” Informed by the survey, the “Wellness Matters” program was developed to promote improved mental, emotional, physical, and community health. Program goals include providing tools and empowering students to: examine their personal wellbeing, recognize the connection between wellness and success in graduate school, and take actions to improve their wellness and that of their peers. Wellness Matters addresses key barriers while combating social isolation, increasing awareness of resources, and reducing the stigma attached to using these resources. Core program elements include: peer mentoring; wellness-themed talks, workshops, and panel discussions; suicide prevention training; and “mid-quarter recharge weeks” promoting self-care.In its first year, Wellness Matters has reached at least one-third of our student population. While survey results did not show an increase in overall student wellness from 2016 to 2017, occurrence and rank order of key barriers shifted, indicating a decrease in stress, impostor syndrome, and anxiety/depression. The 2016 presidential election was an important variable that had a significant negative impact on student wellness and continues to present challenges to individual and community wellness. The successful impact of Wellness Matters necessitates continued engagement of students, faculty, and staff across the School of Medicine and the University. As the program expands, it must address political and social barriers to wellness and the unique needs of students of diverse identities. Continued research and program monitoring are also needed in order to ensure fidelity to program goals and mission.


Mental Health, Wellness, Graduate Education, Graduate Training


Monica K. Devlin, MA, Stanford University School of Medicine