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Embarking on the adventure of “Wellness Explored”

By Kaitlyn Browning

A proposal to enhance wellness and resiliency training, led by RC Stabile, associate director for trainee wellbeing in the Office of Biomedical Research Education and Training, was recently awarded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.

The award, a one-year supplement to the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development T32 grant, will support the development and implementation of a pilot trainee program that will provide individuals with the knowledge and skills to improve wellbeing and resiliency in the training environment.

The project Stabile will lead is called “Wellness Explored.” It will be a multi-week module that invites students in the IMSD to explore different wellness dimensions, such as physical, financial, environmental, or spiritual wellness. By diving deep into the different dimensions, participants will have the opportunity to focus on their own wellbeing while also exploring and practicing new facets of wellness. The idea is to expose students to new wellbeing experiences so they can find what fuels them—what works for them—in support of their wellness.

Proposed events designed to acquaint participants with each wellness dimension include seminars from invited speakers and sponsored trips. Participants will be paired up with “accountability partners” to make achieving their wellness goals even easier. The goal is that by the end of the module, participants will author a wellness plan for themselves.

Stabile hopes that trainees will experience a “light switch moment” where they discover which wellness practices really work for them. “It has a lot of possibility to give space for folks to find something that recharges them or that they are passionate about,” Stabile said of the module. “If they make one commitment to any of the dimensions with one new habit, that is really impactful.” According to him, giving trainees a chance to learn what fuels them is key to their success not only in graduate school, but in future jobs and relationships.

Kathy Gould, senior associate dean for biomedical research education and training, was thrilled about the NIGMS’s support of this pilot module, “which aims to equip early-stage Ph.D. students with knowledge and skills for growing and sustaining healthy physical and mental practices during graduate school.” Gould highlighted the camaraderie the module will build among participants and the opportunity for them to get out and “have some fun in multiple types of activities that can offer a healthy balance to their intensive academic pursuits.”

The supplemental funds will support the program for one year. Preference to participate will be given to second-year students supported by the IMSD T32, which is led by Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology Digna Velez Edwards, Associate Professor of Medicine Julie Rhoades, and Associate Professor of Medicine Henrique Serezani. The supplement application was also supported by the directors of the other five General Medicine T32 programs at Vanderbilt: Professors of Chemistry Brian Bachmann and Gary Sulikowski, Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology Joey Barnett, Professor of Biochemistry Walter Chazin, Professor of Biological Sciences Jim Patton, and Associate Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics David Samuels, who hope their trainees will also benefit. If the module is successful, the BRET Office plans to offer “Wellness Explored” to all interested early-stage students and postdocs in future years.