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Redesigned Wellness Room Is a Sanctuary for Prayer, Meditation, and Decompressing at YSM

October 28, 2021
by Brita Belli

“The students I have met at Yale are some of the most hardworking and driven individuals,” said Christian Abraham Arega, a second year Health Policy student at the Yale School of Public Health from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. But, she added, they often need a reminder to slow down and recharge. “In the midst of all of that hard work, we can sometimes get carried away and forget that our mental health and overall wellbeing deserves that same level of attention and dedication to maintain.”

During her first semester at Yale, while studying for an exam, Arega discovered the Wellness Room in the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library’s Morse Reading Room, a private room equipped with a chair and a window where students could step away and decompress. “It was so refreshing to find a little haven amid the chaos,” she said.

The room is overseen by the Yale School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “Our work and education is stressful,” said Darin Latimore, MD, Deputy Dean of Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer at the DEI Office. “It was important for us to have a space where people can calm down, relax, and regroup, and not feel like they always have to be ‘on’. Also, a space for the religious members of our community to pray and meditate.”

This past year, Arega worked with Chenee Gallaher, Senior Administrative Assistant in the DEI Office, to turn the room into a true sanctuary for medical students, faculty, and staff. The room now features smart phone-adjustable lights and ambient sounds, a soft reclining chair and foot rest, a rock garden, books on positive thinking and emotional intelligence, adult coloring books, and yoga and prayer mats.

Khadija El-Hazimy has worked at Yale for over 10 years and is currently a reference assistant at the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library working in circulation. She said the room is the only place she’s found on campus to pray — as part of her Muslim faith, she prays five times a day for three to five minutes. “They did such an excellent job,” El-Hazimy says of the changes to the room, adding that Muslim medical students and staff on campus also utilize the space for prayers. “Otherwise, I have to go to my car or to the hospital,” she said.

There is no signup for the room, but visitors are asked to limit their time to one hour, and there is an open/closed sign to indicate occupancy. In honor of the room redesign, the organizers are inviting members of the YSM community to vote on a new name for the room using this Google Form by Tuesday, November 23.

“This space is open to anyone,” said Gallaher. “Any students, faculty, or staff who are in need of quiet space.”

Submitted by Brita Belli on October 28, 2021