Earlier this week the Dean’s Task Force on the Learning Environment met so that each of the three working groups could provide an update on progress they’ve made to date. We want to acknowledge the enormous investment of time and energy that all members of these groups have made in tackling this important initiative.

The following is a synopsis of what was shared and plans moving forward.

Mental Health Access

This working group is:

  1. Taking an inventory of existing services across the health system that are available to students, residents, and post docs, and identifying gaps in care
  2. Reviewing differences in insurance coverage among the groups that are served
  3. Identifying best practices at about 15 medical schools in NYC and around the country—focusing mostly on medical schools that are either not part of a university or are located far from a university campus

The inventory of existing services is being collected from providers and from trainees in order to provide a well-rounded perspective on what’s available and how it is perceived. Once all of this data is compiled the group will put together a proposal on enhancing and expanding care, as well as considering what role interventions like reflection or process groups can play in the overall plan.

Well-Being and Resilience

This group initially spent time refining the scope of what well-being should include, as well as identifying themes that are either common across all trainee groups (for example, social isolation, financial pressures, childcare/housing family leave, stress from competition, stress from inadequate career development opportunities) and unique to each group (too much evaluation among medical students, no evaluation or feedback among post docs).

The group has begun to address possible solutions, including a central office that oversees well-being; resilience and mindfulness training; retreats for community-building; a space for supporting trainees who exercise during the day; support and formal recognition for faculty who are involved in supporting well-being.

Culture change

This group identified three common themes that cut across all constituent groups:

  • Training and evaluation
  • Mentoring and relationships
  • General resources (housing, space, etc.)

The members of the group broke up into the four constituencies (medical students, graduate students, house staff, post docs) so that each theme could be addressed through the lens of the different populations of trainees.

At this juncture the working group has extensively catalogued challenges and barriers, and is now poised to begin working on proposed solutions.

It was gratifying to see that there was a healthy amount of overlap in this discovery phase, both in terms of gaps and solutions. Each working group will use the next six weeks to put together a proposal that will then be reviewed by the Task Force near the end of December.

The Task Force will create a final proposal that will include solutions, resources required and a plan for implementation that will be shared with the community of students and trainees, and presented to the Dean for approval.

We hope to have this final draft completed by mid-January.

David Muller, MD, FACP
Dean for Medical Education
Marietta and Charles C. Morchand Chair
Department of Medical Education
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai