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September 28, 2017 - USA College of Medicine Implements Wellness Initiative

wellness.jpgThe University of South Alabama College of Medicine recently created a new wellness initiative, promoting mentorship and enhancing the health and wellbeing among medical students.

The student-led initiative – first introduced at the Class of 2021’s freshman orientation – assigns all first- and second-year students at the USA College of Medicine to one of five wellness ‘houses,’ which they will remain in for the duration of medical school.

“Over the next two years, the houses will grow as the current first- and second-year students move into their third and fourth year,” said Dr. Susan LeDoux, associate dean of medical education and student affairs at USA. “Many of our current third- and fourth-year students have volunteered to serve as upper level mentors in the houses.”

According to Dr. LeDoux, the wellness committee recently hosted two events that gave students, faculty and staff the opportunity to have fun and interact in an informal manner. The mentor and mentee luncheon, which introduced each first-year student to their mentor in the second-year class, was held Sept. 18.  Following the luncheon, the wellness committee hosted the Inaugural USA College of Medicine Fall Cookout where medical students were able to connect with faculty and fellow students.

Dr. LeDoux said the houses – Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley – are named after the five rivers that flow into Mobile Bay, and they represent the mission of the school, which is to provide outstanding health care to the individuals in this region.

According to Dr. LeDoux, one of the primary components of the program is peer-to-peer mentoring. “To enhance peer-to-peer mentoring, each first-year student was paired with a second-year student within the same house who will serve as their mentor throughout medical school,” she said.

“The wellness committee is a new initiative for the 2017-2018 academic year,” said Ben McCormick, a second-year student at the USA College of Medicine. “Several third- and fourth-year students, along with USA College of Medicine faculty members, are also assigned a wellness house. Having representation from both students in their clinical years and from USA faculty members provides us with insight on what we can expect as we progress through medical school, while also cultivating relationships with upperclassmen and physicians in the USA medical community.”

In addition to the wellness houses, students at the USA College of Medicine also have access to individual, couples or group counseling led by a new health and wellness counselor. “Dr. Marjorie Scaffa recently joined the USA College of Medicine and will serve in this roll,” Dr. LeDoux said. “In her new position, Dr. Scaffa will conduct monthly wellness forums covering topics such as managing the transition to medical school, emotional wellbeing, healthy relationships and mindfulness. There will also be a monthly newsletter and wellness blog, along with the opportunity for mental health first aid training.”

McCormick, who also serves as president of the Class of 2020, said the wellness committee is responsible for organizing small group events to promote student wellness throughout the year.

Dr. LeDoux, Dr. Scaffa and Dr. T.J. Hundley, assistant dean of medical education and student affairs, serve as faculty mentors for the student-led initiative, which is being financially supported by Dr. John Marymont, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the USA College of Medicine.

View more photos from the cookout here.

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