Medical school marks one of the most pivotal periods in the life of a physician. Not only are the four rigorous years a time of immense learning and professional growth, but they are also a stage of great personal development. The majority of medical students who matriculate directly out of college encounter in the new independent lifestyle of the medical student a wealth of decisions over which they previously had little control as an undergraduate—loan budgeting, dining options, living environment. Faced with academic demands and long hours unlike any they have ever before experienced, medical students are universally forced to decide what to keep in their overbooked schedules, and what to eliminate. For many, medical school is the first true taste of independent living and the greater demands of the medical profession; as such, how students react and the habits they develop in these four years is especially formative.
Among medical students across the country, it is often felt that the best or even the only way to survive and succeed amidst the intense academic pressure is to give up all other activities that compete with academics for time—even those activities of great personal importance. Such decisions made in the interest of short-term survival frequently lead to longer-term sacrifices in healthy living, as habits developed in the formative years of medical school are carried into post-graduate training and, ultimately, one’s profession. Vanderbilt University School of Medicine’s Wellness Program was created to counteract this pervasive culture by celebrating student involvement in those activities important to their physical, social, and spiritual wellness. The Wellness Program is a student-run initiative composed of five committees, each supporting a different area of student well-being—physical, emotional/spiritual, interpersonal, academic/professional, and environmental/community. Throughout the year, each Wellness Committee is responsible for supporting student life through various programs and resources for medical students.