Shawn Barton (G3)
July 25, 2017

2017 MSTP Retreat at Montgomery Bell State Park

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The annual MSTP retreat was held on June 24th at Montgomery Bell State Park. The weekend was filled with scientific talks, a white coat ceremony for those starting their graduate phase of training, and the sorting the new M1 class into their respective advising colleges. New this year, however, was the addition of a central theme of student wellness for the retreat. The importance of student and physician wellness was addressed by this year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Ray Kotwicki, a psychiatrist affiliated with Emory University. In his talk, he discussed not only the impact of mental illness on physicians and trainees, but also the importance of addressing mental health and developing resilience in low-risk situations now so that when significant challenges come up later in our careers, we will have the tools to face them.

When asked to summarize the message he had for students, Dr. Kotwicki responded, “Physicians are human and need to be healthy in order to best take care of patients.  Self-care includes healthy eating, active living, restorative sleep and belonging to a caring community.  If a physician-scientists has a genetic predisposition for mental illnesses or substance misuse, lack of self-care coupled with pressures of work may trigger development of mental illness.  Pay attention to warning signs of depression, anxiety, alcohol or other substance misuse, and get help early and swiftly if you experience them.  Resiliency can be cultivated. Take care of yourself and one another!”

The retreat this year also included both wellness and science/career breakout sessions designed to address topics relevant to different phases of training. Each session was led by members of the MSTP leadership team and MSTP students. The wellness session topics included imposter syndrome (M1), clerkship year (M2/M3), adjusting to graduate school (G1), coping with setbacks (G2+), prioritization and motivation (G2+), and beginning intern year (M4) while the science/career breakout sessions were study habits and life at Vanderbilt (M1), managing common clinical scenarios (M2/M3), F30 grant practical advice and timeline (G1/G2), BioVU (G2+), biostatistics (G2+), and social media in science (G2+).

In alignment with the wellness theme, Saturday evening concluded with the first annual College Decathlon in which advising colleges competing against each other in a variety of contests to earn the now-coveted Golden Pipette. We saw amazing feats of athleticism such as eating as many donut holes as possible in two minutes and trying to shake ping pong balls out of a tissue box tied to your backside. Competitors also showed their creativity during a slam poetry competition. In the end, Goodpasture College came out on top! We’d like to thank the rising G3 class and Melissa Krasnove for planning this year’s retreat. Finally, a special thank you to the MSTP Wellness Committee for developing the breakout sessions that were new this year and to our keynote speaker, Dr. Kotwicki, for sharing the importance of personal wellness during our training and future careers as physician-scientists.

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