Skip to main content

Wellness Retreats


The Wellness Retreats are a longitudinal curriculum adjunct designed to support personal growth and reflection through a series of workshops over the four years of medical school. The curriculum of these sessions has three specific goals:

  1. To provide a forum through which faculty model self-care as the ultimate goal for being able to supply compassionate patient care.
  2. To construct a context for each student to contemplate his or her life as a person. This serves as the engine for his or her life as a physician.
  3. To foster open dialogue and discussion of issues related to cultivating life-giving relationships, which are central to all compassionate healthcare.

The purpose of the program is to guide students through a process of self-discovery through which they will identify their abilities, convictions, and values. This process gives students the skills and knowledge to incorporate personal needs and life goals into their future practice of medicine.  


These workshops take place over annual half-day long retreats at locations distant from the Vanderbilt campus. Each retreat consists of large group sessions led by the VMS Live organizer as well as small group sessions led by the College Mentors. Student attendance is required at these events, and the retreats are universally well received.

While the topic of each retreat varies, the general template of faculty moderated discussions remains consistent. The College Mentors play a key role in the success of these sessions by discussing their own struggles and being open about their own strengths and weaknesses that led them to where they are today. In addition Student Affiliate Advisors also attend the first and second year retreats to offer their perspectives.

Retreat Topics

First Year

Surviving vs. Thriving: Understanding the difference

Students will receive an overview of the VMS Live Program and learn the difference between growing/becoming vs. achieving/performing and its long-term impact on their personal well-being.

Students will learn the importance of maintaining space for their personal identity and culture, i.e. avoiding the dangers of completely immersing themselves into the medical culture

Key learning objective: embracing your humanity

Second Year

Motivated abilities: Connecting with one's natural talents

Students will discover more about their unique motivated abilities and how to begin to think about specialty selection in light of their natural abilities

Key learning objective: embracing your design

Third Year

Resilience Enhancement

Resilience enhancement involves giving students the skills they need to handle the stress of working daily in the intense learning environment of a teaching hospital.  Medical students are vulnerable to problems such as burnout and depression, but those possessing resiliency tend to stay healthy and recover more quickly when facing stressful situations.  Cultivation of resiliency skills is therefore of paramount importance and forms the basis of the VMS III Wellness Retreat.

Key learning objective: building resiliency skills based on past experiences

Fourth Year

Integration and choices: Putting into practice lessons from years 1-3 to create your oath

Students will engage in self-reflection on the lessons of the past three years and how they have impacted where they are today

Students will incorporate these perspectives and as a class develop their version of the Hippocratic Oath to be stated at graduation

Key learning objective: wellness is a life-long process with no correct route that impacts what it means to be a physician