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Dr. Claudia Finkelstein co-chairs committee to promote wellness among UW Medicine community

Posted on March 15th, 2013

From Dr. Paul Ramsey's message in UW Medicine Online News

Dear Colleagues:

UW Medicine’s mission of improving the health of the public focuses strongly on service—helping others to achieve health through our research, teaching and patient care programs. Integral to helping others to achieve health is maintaining and maximizing our own health and well-being.  It is important for each member of the UW Medicine community to step back and assess his/her well-being and ways to ensure that his/her personal health needs are being met.  It is also important for UW Medicine to work to maximize the capacity of each community member to achieve personal and professional fulfillment.  

To that end, in February 2012, I charged a UW School of Medicine Wellness Committee to: perform an environmental scan to support wellness and publicize these resources; initiate pilots that promote balance and mental health in two departments; explore and potentially implement a peer support pilot; and make recommendations for future steps to promote a scalable and sustainable program.  Norm Beauchamp, professor and chair of radiology, and Claudia Finkelstein, clinical associate professor of medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine, are committee co-chairs. The committee has worked over the past year to understand our environment and develop recommendations to support wellness.  While the committee’s report has not yet been finalized, its work indicates that many resources are available for our community members, and more are being developed to support all members of our community,  

Medical student wellness resources include guidance through the formal curriculum in the Introduction to Clinical Medicine courses and multiple electives, including mind/body skills classes.  Other resources include College faculty mentors, career counseling, medical student counseling and wellness services led by Joanne Estacio-Deckard, access to a  learning specialist, and many student interest groups.  Opportunities available to medical students include yoga and mindfulness classes and other resources.

Resources for residents and fellows include free counseling, access to a learning specialist, a Wellness Center led by Mindy Stern, director of UW Resident and Fellow Wellness, group facilitation for individual programs, and a broad range of events to promote wellness and workshops and seminars, including an ongoing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction series. Wellness resources for residents are outlined on the web.

Faculty and staff resources include:  the Employee Assistance Program with a UWellness section, the Seattle Children’s Hospital Work Life Balance and Wellbeing Committee, faculty development workshops on achieving work-life balance (UW NetID required for log-in) and other resources. An example of a department-based program is the Couch to 5K Initiative in the Department of Radiology. This program fosters increased physical activity as well as group camaraderie by encouraging each person in the department to take one step towards increasing his or her physical fitness. Walkers are encouraged to jog; and sedentary folks are encouraged to walk.

More options are being developed. Beginning this year, faculty and their families will have the opportunity to take a six-week mindfulness-based stress reduction workshop based on a national model that has achieved considerable success. The course, offered at reduced cost, starts in several weeks at South Lake Union. Information and registration are available online. A wellness website is planned to offer a menu of options to support individualized and incremental choices for individual members of our community to improve their personal well-being.  

The Wellness Committee is also identifying barriers to individual commitment to wellness. A substantial barrier is that some may place wellness in the discretionary category—an optional effort after we complete our daily professional work. A commitment to wellness enables us to be more responsive to our range of professional responsibilities in the workplace. Personal wellness increases alertness and enables one to be more effective in serving others. Ultimately, I believe that a commitment to personal wellness is time well invested.

We are making positive steps, but we must do more. Personal wellness is vital to professional satisfaction and to achieving our mission of improving the health of the public. I welcome your thoughts and ideas about how we can make the UW Medicine environment one that is optimally conducive to wellness for all members of our community.


Paul G. Ramsey, M.D.
CEO, UW Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and
Dean of the School of Medicine,
University of Washington