Supporting Future Health Professionals

Sep 24, 2014
Jay and Sal_440w.The Faculty of Medicine takes pride in our students and their success. Key to that success is the important role played by support services provided by the Faculty and staff. This support helps our learners overcome challenges and maintain their own health and wellbeing in a sustainable manner as they prepare to do the same for their patients.

Beginning September 29, a delegation from the University of São Paulo (USP) — an institution we have been working closely with as they re-evaluate their medical school curriculum — will visit U of T Medicine to learn more about our services. They’re hoping to learn from our expertise in developing a supportive learning environment in our Faculty. That effort is being led by two important offices at U of T Medicine: the Office of Health Professions Student Affairs led by Dr. Leslie Nickell and the Office of Resident Wellness led by Dr. Susan Edwards.

Our Office of Health Professions Student Affairs supports and nurtures students through a wide range of services, programs and initiatives, including confidential personal and career counselling for students in the Doctor of Medicine, MD/PhD, Medical Radiation Sciences, Physician Assistant and Occupational Therapy programs. Our Office of Resident Wellness, which was established in 2006, ensures the wellbeing of our postgraduate trainees. It supports residents and fellows who are encountering a variety of challenges during their training, and develops and delivers curriculum to enhance physician wellbeing and performance.

Medical educators agree that health professions education across the continuum is uniquely challenging both professionally and personally. Our need to address this extends beyond our accreditation obligations, which do require that some measure of support be extended to our learners. It is a moral imperative that we take very seriously. We have established uniquely dedicated resources for our students that address their specific needs and promote health. We are also working closely with colleagues throughout the University to improve the quality of services and the range of support offered to our students.

There is a great demand for these kinds of services. In 2013-14, our Office of Resident Wellness saw the largest number of visits in its history and counselled 184 residents, compared to 86 in 2009-10. Similarly, our Office of Health Professions Student Affairs gave personal counselling to 179 students in 2012-13, up from 145 in 2011-12.

The challenge is that while demand for these services is growing, our resources are finite. We need to identify new and innovative ways to address the needs of our students and learners. Some of these changes will come from a careful evaluation and benchmarking of our services.

We also need to foster a learning environment that is supportive and collegial, and which helps our learners become doctors who look after their own health and wellbeing. We believe identifying new ways to incorporate wellness into our curriculum and training is an essential component of our education programs. Supporting the physical and mental health of our learners is as important for their preparation as physicians as the lessons we provide in classrooms or clinics.

As the wise expression states, it is difficult to look after others, if first you don’t attend to yourself. Both Faculty offices encourage our learners to integrate healthy behaviour and attitudes so they can manage the demands of their education and their professional lives. The success of this work, and the international reputation we are building from it, is a credit to the Faculty of which we are very proud. 


Jay Rosenfield    
Vice-Dean, Undergraduate Medical
Professions Education

Salvatore Spadafora
Vice-Dean, Postgraduate Medical Education





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