Dr Siddharth P. Dubhashi
Prof and HOD, Surgery
AIIMS, Nagpur

Wellness centers in medical schools in India: a dream or a reality in future?

A young mind with a dream of pursuing a career in healthcare profession enters the medical school. He /she would have made this decision due to a doctor within the family who would have been a role model, or any incident which would have created a significant impact on the mind, so as to take up the noble profession. It is very difficult for the individual at that tender age to imagine the stress associated with medical education. Why stress? Who introduced stress? The current scenario of medical education warrants an urgent pause and a deep insight into the issue.

Gone are the days when a newly joined student was made to introduce himself in a hilarious manner, or show some extra-curricular talent to their seniors. All this came under the ambit of ragging, which was once upon a time considered as a part of the hidden curriculum. As years passed by, this concept assumed serious proportions with criminal offences. Ragging is now strongly condemned. There are strict laws in force to curb this menace. But are we still able to provide a conducive teaching-learning environment to the aspiring medicos? Is not there a missing thread? Surprisingly, the situation is not different for undergraduate and postgraduate programs in medicine.

Lack of inter-personal bonding, language barriers, poor living conditions, less time for pursuing hobbies, suppression of creative thinking, all contribute to the burn-out phenomenon.

The transition from one phase of education to another is quite turbulent. The postgraduate students spend sleepless nights due to extremes of work load and this definitely affects health and brings down work efficiency and quality, thereby having a negative impact on clinical care.

A medical school needs to nurture healthy constructive minds. The aim is to create a healthcare professional, an individual who would be competent to provide basic care to the community. The foundation course has been introduced as a part of the competency-based curriculum for the undergraduate program. But we need to go much beyond this. A wellness center in a medical school is the need of the hour.

The mental well-being of an individual is of utmost importance, whether student is an undergraduate or a postgraduate, or that matter, even a faculty of the medical school. Only a healthy mind can provide the best of treatment to a patient.

It is extremely important to realize that these centers are not only for patients, but also for students and faculty. This concept has to evolve in India as a comprehensive learning model in medical education.

The wellness center must include facilities for yoga, good dietary practices, music and laughter sessions, educational movie club, sports, nurturing hobbies, depicting true professional values and social responsibilities, counseling sessions. It should provide a platform for an individual to vent out their feelings, providing opportunities for instilling an element of high self-esteem in him/her.

The wellness center activity has to be a structured one, with dedicated hours within the institutional time-table, throughout the program. It should be entrusted to a strong motivated faculty team, headed by a professor. It is important to wipe off the notion that a wellness center caters to only those with psychological problems.

It should be have all the facilities and expertise to make it a center of excellence within the medical school campus, with quality benchmarks. The medical school should build up a strong alumni network, which would ensure a ‘motivation bank’ at the wellness center.

It is extremely crucial to understand the psychology of a young mind that faces a sudden shift in the training period. The medical school needs to have a strong support system for its stakeholders.

The teaching-learning framework should involve formal interactions between senior and junior students. This peer-mentoring will not only boost up the morale of junior students, but would offer to bring out academic leadership amongst senior students. The institution should strive to bring about an academic culture.

A faculty who is chosen as a mentor for a student needs to devote himself to a great extent, in order to understand their mentee from a total perspective. The student needs to get comfortable with the new learning environment as soon as possible.

Student welfare encompasses much more than mere mentor-mentee program. In fact, this program does exist in most of the medical schools, without having the desired impact on program outcomes. It is pertinent to note that any activity introduced into the curriculum without defined objectives, will be an utter failure. We need to aim at transforming the organization culture.

Training in academic leadership takes a back seat in medical education. Leadership qualities need to be groomed. Communication skills, team-building, and accountability, will be an integral part of the medical curriculum. The schools need to foster pedagogical innovations to instill self-confidence amongst students.

The future will see each medical school bringing out its graduate attribute and program outcome defining documents. There will be a transformation of delivery of medical education making it student-centric, with a total emphasis on critical thinking, rather than rote learning.

It is quite evident that in order to develop good academic leaders, the trainers should also possess all the required qualities. An integrated leadership development program for budding doctors will see the light of the day.

The future of medical education will see a total revamp. Wellness centers will de-stress the burdened minds and bring out the hidden talents in budding medicos.

These centers will bring about a radical change in the overall teaching-learning process, making it a vibrant and enjoyable journey, not only for the student, but also for the facilitators. Let us all pledge to bring about the much desired change.

Healthy minds. Healthy nation!

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