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Journey to Well-Being

December 18, 2023

To the YSM Community:

The last two months have highlighted the importance of tending to the well-being of our community. This Beyond Sterling Hall provides an update on recent progress in developing and supporting a culture of well-being at Yale School of Medicine (YSM).

Over the last several years, the Office of Academic and Professional Development (OAPD) has been working in collaboration with Yale Human Resources, Yale Health, Yale Medicine, and Yale New Haven Health System (YNHHS) towards this goal. While these efforts also impact our students, specific resources related to student well-being may be found at the following links: MD Program , PA Program, and GSAS Program.

Developing a culture to support wellness centers on three domains of activity: enhancing organizational culture, improving the clinical practice environment, and supporting individual resilience and personal well-being. To be truly effective, we need to work at multiple levels, from the school to departments, sections, teams, and individual level interventions. We also need to be able to address issues across institutional boundaries, as many of our faculty and staff work in YNHHS as well as YSM. Dr. Rohrbaugh works in collaboration with Dr. Kristine Olson, chief wellness officer at YNHH, and many departments sponsor wellness initiatives.

A cornerstone of enhancing organizational culture is recognizing and addressing professionalism issues early and strengthening expectations across the medical school and academic health system. Early detection allows for the recognition of patterns of behaviors by individuals or within a unit. It also enables interventions such as coaching or counseling to help individuals or groups address barriers to professionalism and thereby prevent future events. Sometimes effective interventions require systems improvement. OAPD provides a central portal through which anyone can share concerns about professionalism.

Strong leadership and career development opportunities also contribute to enhancing organizational culture. OAPD has organized career and leadership development programs to support faculty throughout their careers at Yale. Recent programs include OAPD’s series of faculty workshops offered during the academic year to support assistant professors and research rank faculty, a Coaching Skills for Senior Leaders, and the YSM Healthcare Leadership Program , a monthly full-day program that focuses on leadership skills in the YSM/YNHHS context. YNHHS has developed a leadership program for medical directors under the leadership of Dr. Robert Fogerty. YSM provides additional career and leadership development offered by the Office of Physician Scientist Development and the Center for Medical Education. Yale University’s Emerge Program offers leadership development for staff.

Building a positive culture is facilitated when we celebrate exceptional professionalism, bestow accolades and awards, and promote inclusion. The Program for Humanities in Medicine and the Program for Biomedical Ethics sponsor seminars that promote critical reflection, help us understand perspectives different from our own, and promote compassion in medicine. Affinity groups, including Yale’s affinity groups, YSM’s medical student affinity groups, and the YSM six-college system, provide additional opportunities for faculty and trainees to come together to support one another and create community.

For active clinicians, inefficiencies related to documentation and administrative work negatively influence well-being. To improve our practice environment , Dr. Peggy McGovern, Dr. Lee Schwamm, and Lisa Stump, MS, have recently initiated an Epic Optimization Program, in which IT staff are working with departments, sections, and teams to better understand the challenges they face. This initiative will facilitate changing the Epic interface to address clinician concerns and conduct training sessions to ensure these changes are disseminated and adopted. In a very exciting development, YSM/YNHHS Digital Transformation Services (DTS) is also spearheading the introduction of generative artificial intelligence (AI), which has the capability to generate notes after a patient visit and to draft responses to patient inquiries received through the Epic portal. These efforts will prioritize time spent with patients and their families rather than with the electronic health record.

In efforts to support individual resilience, OAPD is partnering with human resources to increase awareness of personal benefits available to Yale employees (parental leave, childcare, college tutor program, tuition assistance, eldercare, financial well-being, retirement options) through a series of wellness webinars . In addition, the university has partnered with a third-party vendor to improve access to Optum’s Live and Work Well, our Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These resources include information on family caregiving, relationship challenges, financial wellness, legal consultation, mental health and substance use disorder, suicide prevention, and crisis support.

EAP provides eligible staff, faculty, post-doctoral associates, and their household members up to six free confidential counseling sessions and can also assist in making referrals for ongoing behavioral health treatment. Dr. Amy Sceery, a licensed clinical psychologist working in our EAP, provides solution focused counseling sessions; you can schedule directly with Dr. Sceery here. Recently the university has recruited an additional full-time social worker to increase access for in-person appointments on-site at the medical school, effective January 1, 2024. More information about well-being and mental health resources is available on the OAPD website.

We understand the profound impact that the events of 2023 have had on many members of our community and will continue to offer opportunities to support one another. The efforts outlined above will contribute to our culture of well-being, but we are still at the beginning of this journey. We will continue this work with ongoing commitment and resolve.


Nancy J. Brown, MD
Jean and David W. Wallace Dean of Medicine
C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine

Robert Rohrbaugh, MD
Deputy Dean for Professionalism and Leadership
Professor of Psychiatry