Medical students describe their wellness and how to preserve it

Krishanu Chatterjee, Victoria S. Edmonds, Marlene E. Girardo, Kristin S. Vickers, Julie C. Hathaway, Cynthia M. Stonnington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Despite widespread efforts to create wellness programming in medical schools, there is a paucity of literature examining students’ perception of wellness and perceptions of these programs. With the inaugural class at the Arizona campus of Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine (MCASOM-AZ), an opportunity arose to establish an empirically evaluated wellness curriculum that most inclusively and effectively enables medical students to flourish for years to come. The initial wellness offerings included mental health, academic success, and disability services, curriculum-embedded seminars, wellness committee driven programming, and student-proposed wellness activities. We aimed to improve the relevance and impact of medical school wellness curricula by soliciting in-depth and longitudinal perspectives of medical students themselves. As MCASOM-AZ opened in 2017, the student body at the time of study consisted of first- and second-year medical students. Methods: Employing a mixed methods analysis of qualitative and longitudinal quantitative data, first- and second-year students at a MCASOM-AZ were invited to respond to an anonymous, online year-long survey (baseline, six months and 12 months) during the 2018–2019 academic year and participate in a structured, in-depth and in-person, peer-to-peer interview about their conceptions of wellness and the MCASOM-AZ wellness curriculum and resources. Qualitative data was coded for themes using thematic analysis strategies by independent raters. Results: Nearly half of eligible students completed the baseline survey,1/3 completed all 3 time-points, and 1/5 participated in an in-depth interview. Participant age, gender, and year of school were representative of the larger student body. Although individual conceptions varied, Wellness was consistently highly valued. Family, Academic Performance, and Friends emerged as most important to well-being across time-points. Academic work arose as the largest barrier to wellness. Analysis of qualitative data revealed five themes. Despite individual differences in approaches to wellness, wellbeing was interrelated to the learning environment; mandatory wellness efforts that didn’t address the medical culture met with skepticism. Conclusions: Interview responses provided understanding and context by which to interpret questionnaire responses. Academics was critical to students’ identity and wellness, while also the largest barrier. Suggested curricular improvements include restructuring academic work, seamlessly integrating wellness within coursework, and offering optional individualized approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number510
JournalBMC medical education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Education environment
  • Qualitative analysis
  • Student wellness
  • Undergraduate medical education
  • Wellness curriculum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Medical students describe their wellness and how to preserve it'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this