Healing the healer: OHSU Doernbecher physician-in-training launches “The Well Resident”

It is well-established that over the course of a doctor’s training, there is often not enough time in the day to do everything: cook, sleep, exercise, take care of patients, spend time with loved ones.

In medical school, you’re in the classroom learning how to apply knowledge from the medical textbooks to the less scripted stories of patients. In residency, you are in the hospital more often than in your own home. To find work-life balance through all of this is a challenge; however, it is essential.

To be able to practice medicine to the best of your ability, you must be happy. Despite the recent 80-hour workweek restriction for resident trainees, this is still a fine balancing act to achieve. The question becomes how to weave self-care and wellness into the busy hospital day.

Wellness has been a special passion of mine from early on. Prior to medical school, I completed graduate studies at Georgetown University on the connection between life stress and physical/emotional health, examining various healing modalities like meditation, yoga and guided relaxation. I was determined to make wellness not only a priority on my own journey to becoming a physician, but also an important part of the community in which I trained.

This became an even larger reality when I lost my brother to a terminal illness prior to starting medical school. I often found myself using various stress-reducing techniques and regular exercise to help me get through my biggest challenges. My fellow medical students also were eager to learn more about reducing stress in order to bring more clarity and calm to their busy lives and minds.

When I arrived at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for my pediatric residency, I again was determined to create an opportunity for growth, health and balance in my own life, but also in the lives of fellow residents. I was determined to utilize the passion and brilliance of Portland’s wellness culture to support fellow residents.

After thoughtful discussions with OHSU faculty, Graduate Medical Education, the primary care residency programs, combined with the generosity of local Portland businesses and wellness practitioners, the first formal resident wellness curriculum is slated to begin summer 2014.

Called “The Well Resident,” the new curriculum will be offered to all the primary care residents: family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics. It will address essential wellness topics like sleep, yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction, cooking and food culture, nutrition and exercise. Speakers will include a sports nutritionist with experience working for the Portland Timbers and Trail Blazers, a local restaurant owner and chef, a well-known Portland-based yoga teacher, a faculty member from University of California San Francisco’s Osher Institute for Integrative Medicine, and a faculty member in the OHSU Department of Pediatrics who specializes in sleep medicine.

We hope each resident will leave the lectures inspired and empowered to find wellness in their own lives. Bob’s Red Mill and Nike are both generously providing take-home items for all the residents to support physician wellness. Lululemon Portland is hosting the opening kick-off event to bring wellness practitioners in the Portland community and resident physicians together in order to form important relationships for future collaborations to best serve our patients.

I am thrilled that the “The Well Resident” has been met with such support and enthusiasm by OHSU. Together, we are the first academic medical center to institute a formal wellness curriculum for primary care residents, which ultimately translates into the highest quality of patient care. In the context of larger health care reform and the new pressures being placed on doctors, this couldn’t be a better time to advocate and educate on self-care and nourishment while at work.

“The Well Resident” is truly the culmination of all of my interests and efforts prior to starting residency. To work and learn at OHSU is a privilege and an honor. I look forward to seeing the program grow to be implemented institutionwide in the near future.

Megan Furnari, M.D.
Resident in Pediatrics
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital

2 responses to “Healing the healer: OHSU Doernbecher physician-in-training launches “The Well Resident”

  1. This is a really cool program! It’s good to hear there’s a focus on taking care of yourselves first, which will in turn make you a better resource to the patients and families you take care of. Strong work, Dr. Furnari!

  2. Wonderful!!! Wish program had existed when I was in training. (School, Internship, medine residency) all at OHSU.

Comments are closed.