Yale psychiatry resident leads wellness course for medical students

Robert Feeley, MD, a first-year psychiatry resident and member of the Yale Psychiatry Wellness Initiative, recently taught a four-day course to 19 second-year Yale medical students, helping them learn how to de-stress through yoga, breathing, and meditation.

The course, called "Your Enlightened Side Plus" (YESplus), is one of many programs offered by the Art of Living Foundation and is popular across college and graduate school campuses.

All 19 medical students will take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 in a few months and wished to learn practical ways to reduce stress, increase energy, and quiet the mind.

Dr. Feeley worked closely with Yale School of Medicine's Committee on the Well Being of Students (CWBS) as well as Nancy Angoff, MD, MPH, MEd, associate professor of medicine and the medical school's associate dean for student affairs, resulting in this piloting of the YESplus course.

"The quality of our life is determined by the state of our mind. Most people keep increasing the things around them but their capacity to enjoy them remains the same," said Dr. Feeley. "This course aims to improve our state of mind and enhance our capacity to enjoy what we already have."

YESplus is unique. While the focus of the course is mostly on experiential techniques—yoga, meditation, and breathing—it also includes many small and large group discussions on topics relevant to busy professionals, especially physicians: the quality of our listening, our ability to be natural in any situation, the degree to which we are influenced by other peoples' opinions, what it is we take responsibility for, our ability to accept people and situations as they are, the quality of our love, our perception of the present moment, and what it means to truly be happy, among others.

Building on the theme of taking responsibility, there is also a service project on the last day of the course. "This is definitely one of the most enjoyable parts of the course. The students formed three groups and each group came up with creative ways to uplift members of the Yale community," added Dr. Feeley.

On the last day of the course, students were given a tailored "home practice" that included the techniques they learned throughout the course that they could use for the rest of their lives.

"By the last day, everyone looked happy, refreshed, and recharged. They seemed to be both alert, yet relaxed—a combination that is often hard to come by," Dr. Feeley said.

The course received rave reviews from students and it will likely be offered again, most likely next fall.

Dr. Feeley has also been working to secure funding to bring a similar program to the Yale Department of Psychiatry for interns, residents, and staff as part of the Yale Psychiatry Wellness Initiative.

This article was submitted by Shane Seger on February 19, 2013.

Robert Feeley, MD
Yale medical students participate in a wellness course to learn practical ways to reduce stress, increase energy, and quiet the mind.