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Although we had already made plans to attend the Health and Wellness Summit held at Ohio State University in early October, the recent deaths by suicide of Robin Williams and Dr. Sophia Yin brought a sense of even greater urgency to the conference.

While there were many valuable take-home messages shared by DVM students, mental healthcare professionals, and researchers, perhaps the most important was simply that we need to be more intentionally aware of wellness issues in ourselves, our students, and our profession. In that spirit, we wanted to share some of the messages that were most meaningful to us. Perhaps some of them will resonate as we all try to make a positive impact each day, one person at a time.

  1. Our entire profession needs a much higher level of awareness about the many ways that our students and colleagues can struggle mentally, physically, and emotionally. We need to be prepared to provide appropriate support for as they negotiate these challenges.
  2. One of the most important ways that we can create an inclusive environment is to normalize these experiences so that seeking help and support is the norm rather than the exception.
  3. Faculty should focus on providing the optimal environment for learning through teaching in context, ensuring relevant experiences, and making our expectations for students as clear as possible.
  4. We must help students understand how important taking care of themselves is to the learning process. It turns out that our mothers were right …….. proper nutrition, good hydration, consistent exercise, and enough sleep can make a huge difference in our ability to be attentive and learn. Role-modeling these attributes will be in the best interest of our students and ourselves.
  5. For each of us, emphasis should be directed towards being more self-aware of our own needs and how to access appropriate help throughout our careers.
  6. Students and faculty need to see each other as “people” and colleagues. We must find opportunities to make ourselves available and let students into our lives.
  7. We should leverage our considerable strengths rather than spend extraordinary effort in “fixing” our weaknesses. Spend time recognizing and building the diverse strengths of everyone on your team.

Each of us has the ability to lend an ear and a helping hand to our colleagues. Sometimes a kind and supportive word can truly make a difference.

Be aware and be well!!

Kenita Rogers