Queen’s medical students have issued a challenge to the entire UGME community to change some habits in February with the #keepsmewell positive wellness challenge.

Spearheaded by the Mental Health and Wellness committee, the challenge includes month-long goals such as eat balanced breakfasts and sleep 7 hours a night as well as weekly challenges that include such things as make a new recipe, try a new activity, call a friend and skip the elevator to take the stairs.

To take the challenge, students, faculty and staff are invited to form teams of four (the challenges are slightly altered for faculty and staff – only student teams will take part in the MED LAW Games, for example). Teams earn points for each activity members complete and there will be prizes at the end of the month.  (The challenge is funded by an AMS grant and a generous anonymous donation.)Blog wellness full page

Teams need to open a Twitter account and track their activities with tweets throughout the month, including the hashtag #keepsmewell .

“We’re attempting to get all four years to engage,” says Alyssa Lip, the committee’s chair. “There are options for clerks to do this remotely so they can have team members across the country and still be a team for this competition.”

Encouraging faculty and staff to join in was a natural extension of the challenge. “We wanted faculty and staff to be involved because they’re a part of the medical community that we engage in,” says Lip. “It’s also very inspiring to see that faculty and staff care about their wellness, and about our wellness.”

“The goals of this challenge are to focus on changing our everyday habits into positive ones – preventative medicine!”  Lip explains.

In addition to Lip, the committee includes: Executive: Natasha Ovtcharenko, Shannon Chun, Rufina Kim, Meghan Bhatia, Amy Jiang, Alicia Ling, Elena Bianca, Meherzad Kutky; preclerkship members: Arian Ghassemian, Beverly Guan, David Carlone, Jonathan Krett, Madelaine Baetz-Dougan, Olivia Suppa, Sarah Edgerley, Fay Zhu, Calvin Santiago; and clerks Brandon Maser, Hollis Roth, Soniya Sharma, and Debarati Chakraborty.

Blog wellness challengesWhen Lip and Aesculapian Society VP Academic Natasha Ovtcharenko sat down at the beginning of the year to update the committee’s terms of reference, they “felt strongly that mental health and wellness activities should focus on programming to enact effective changes around our QMed community,” Lip says. “This initiative grew from an amalgamation of smaller ideas and past initiatives that we drew inspiration from. For example, the competition idea came from a successful Movember campaign by the 2017 class council last year, while the self-care aspect was an existing current trend and the social media aspect came from Ottawa Med’s smaller #keepsmewell campaign.”

The wellness challenge is in line with the committee’s three overarching themes:

  1. Providing wellness resources (they’ve started monthly sessions for students to relax and chat confidentially and have created resource cards and pamphlets available in the Medical building at all times)
  2. Creating a stigma-free environment (they’ve started a three-part “Frames of Mind” speaker series geared to all mentors in medicine—faculty, staff, colleagues. The first one was on Identifying and Responding to Students in Distress)
  3. Positive habits (they want to focus on maintaining wellness, and developing mechanisms and habits that can build more resilience and not just address ‘when things go wrong’).

For Lip, her key take-homes are that little things you do every day can make a big difference, such as sleeping and eating breakfast. “And taking time out of ‘work’ to do something unrelated, for yourself, is important” such as taking a yoga class or watching a movie.

The challenges for #keepsmewell reflect this philosophy. “We made a point to keep each activity simple, because those are the habits that are easiest to change and make the most difference,” she explains. “It’s an ambitious pilot to what we hope to become regular yearly program!”

Lip and the rest of the committee have been overwhelmed by the support their classmates have given and how people have responded to this initiative. “We really hope people will get something out of this by the time March rolls around.”

All members of the Queen’s UGME community are invited to attend the information session on January 29 at 12:30 p.m. in 132A in the Medical Building.  To register, email Alyssa Lip (alip@qmed.ca) by February with the names of your team of four. She’ll send a tracking sheet to get you started.

 The Educational Development Team is on board! The committee graciously granted us a waiver on the “mixed gender” rule as our team consists of four women and they’ve let us register as a challenge team. Are you in? (Follow us @QMedEdFabFour)