Medical Minds Matter: Valuing the mental health of future health professionals
âHow would you describe the process of transitioning from a pre-med student to a doctor? I asked my roommate.
âTrauma,â she said.
After being subjected to hours of biology classes, anatomy classes, and organic chemistry labs – and the myriad other demands for undergraduate medical students – the hard work doesn’t stop after graduation. of the diploma. Assuming you’ve already been accepted, medical school is the epitome of probing, piling up learning all about human medicine in four years.
After that, residency is usually a three to seven year ordeal that involves doing all of the duties of a doctor except you end up in a junior position, get
ting paid a fraction of what the average doctor earns. And once that period is over, finally, you become a doctor, where managing people’s lives through trauma, tragedy and pain becomes a normal part of working life.
In short, being a pre-med student is just the start of a long and stressful journey towards a long and stressful career, and most of your time as a pre-med student has been spent dreading this. who will follow. Of course, all of this has an impact, and for some it is more than others. As a graduate in molecular cell biology, Derek Pan, a former student of the University of Connecticut, saw the harmful effects of this phenomenon and decided to take the initiative by founding Medical Minds Matter.
As described on its website, âMedical Minds Matter is a volunteer-led, startup nonprofit that seeks to transform the narrative of mental health in the medical field through storytelling, community building. and grassroots advocacy efforts. The organization provides opportunities to members of the medical community around the world through a platform called the âAnonyMed Initiative,â where members can share their mental health issues anonymously. They strive to promote advocacy through collaborations with institutions and other organizations, and their goal “is to become a national movement with chapters in medical schools and health workplaces across. the United States “- UConn included.
The UConn Medical Minds Matter Chapter was founded in April 2021 as a place where other premedical majors can come together and participate in a community effort to ease the burden of medical travel. The organization’s general meetings are held every two weeks, with many new events and opportunities planned for the semester, including a healthcare panel.
Saumya Vodapally, a seventh semester in Molecular and Cellular Biology and a double major in WGSS, is Chairman of the Board. She went through the panel’s plans in detail, while also discussing UConn Health’s upcoming speakers and a new mentorship program.
âWhether they are medical students, residents, fellows, doctors or pre-doctors themselves, it is essentially for them to come and talk about their own struggles and what they are doing. have lived and just create a safe space for open discussion, âVodapally mentioned. âWe are also planning to bring in students from the UConn Health section and have these medical students come and talk to our pre-doctors and all of us about it. We have a big-little program that we want to do that pairs first-class students with upper-class students who have similar majors and similar interests so that underclass students can have someone to talk to and ask for advice for courses and how to go about this process.
Vodapally went on to describe his reasoning for joining the chapter.
âI think the reason I joined personally is that a lot of people close to me are in the medical field – my dad, my brother, my sister-in-law – so it really touches me when I hear about this. that they ‘and I see what they’re going through firsthand, “said Vodapally.” When I see my own friends or roommates going through the same things, it’s really hard to see and know that in this community in general a lot of people go through this but they don’t have the space to talk about it. see our friend derek [Pan] solving this problem and wanting to create a safe space for it all across the country was something that once I saw I really wanted to be a part of it.
Every stage of the medical field, from undergraduate to completing as a registered physician (and even beyond), is known to cause chronic distress. This perpetuates the unhealthy assumption that poor mental health should be anticipated and therefore concealed, rather than recognized and corrected. Vice Chairman of the Board, Sumeet Kadian, fifth semester molecular and cellular biology major, provided his perspective on the matter.
âYesterday at our general meeting we posted some statistics,â said Kadian, who leads an individualized health study. âWe have 304 doctors who commit suicide [on average] each year, double the rate of the general population. We have 40 percent of doctors who avoid seeking treatment because [of the risk of losing] their license, then a quarter of pre-physicians feel stress and anxiety all the time. Just looking at these statistics is amazing enough, but then you start to think, âWell, doctors are supposed to take care of people, aren’t they? And the irony is, they don’t take care of themselves.
When asked about his views on the mental health services UConn offers, Kadian said that even though programs like Student Health and Wellbeing have tried to improve their accessibility, students are still reluctant to use this accessibility to themselves.
âI think SHAW is trying to make improvements,â Kadian said. âI think they’re trying to improve their hours, they’re trying to improve their accessibility to people. People know how to access it; I think it’s about making sure people are comfortable accessing it and know when to access it. Because sometimes I feel like students think – I’ve seen this in pre-medical culture and I’m sure it extends to other areas as well – people just think, “Oh, this that I’m going through is normal, everyone is going through it, it’s okay, it’s okay â, but then they avoid asking for help because they think it’s stigmatized or they think it’s wrong to seeing this as a problem, so mainly the problem comes down to making sure that the students understand that it is okay to ask for help, that it shouldn’t be a problem and that it is encouraged.
Responding to the same question, Vodapally stressed the importance for students to take it upon themselves to create safe spaces and look out for each other when institutional services don’t seem to offer effective solutions.
âWe want to recognize that there are resources on campus, but in case those don’t work, we can’t just rely on those,â Vodapally said. âIt’s kind of bypassing the system and realizing that there are flaws in it and those are inevitable and there isn’t really much we can do to change them. So create a different outlet, say, âHey, even if that doesn’t work for you, you can come see usâ – these are other ways to ask for that help and to talk to people. We are there for you, come talk to us, we are going through the same things as you.
Medical Minds Matter aims to ensure that medical minds are taken care of in the same way they would care for future patients – that all health, especially mental health, would be prioritized by those who are supposed to help. Building a community to fight together against these struggles and advance everyone’s medical careers is the objective of the UConn chapter.
For more information on the Medical Minds Matter chapter at UConn, be sure to visit @mmm_uconn on Instagram.