As physicians-in-training, we are thoroughly taught how to provide care for our future patients. While we become experts in delivering care to others, often our own personal self-care is neglected. Physician burnout has become an all too common hazard of practicing medicine. In an effort to improve the health of physicians, both undergraduate and graduate medical education programs have started initiatives aimed at promoting the overall health and wellness of their trainees. For example, undergraduate medical programs have integrated mindfulness and nutrition into their curricula, established ‘safe spaces’ where students can speak openly about their experiences on the ward, and some institutions provide mental health services at no cost.
At many institutions, medical students have taken it upon themselves to improve the health and wellness of their peers. The Palate interviewed Meghan Bhatia and Monica Mullin, second-year students at Queen’s University School of Medicine in Ontario, Canada. Meghan and Monica, who are both interested in nutrition and student wellness, created a cookbook of student recipes during Queen’s Wellness Month. The cookbook is complete with nutritional and culinary education aimed specifically at medical students. QMed Cooks is beautifully designed and has been enormously successful among students and faculty.
Read our interview below to learn more about their student wellness initiative:
What is Wellness Month?
Wellness Month is a positive habits challenge that has four themed weeks: nutrition, mental health, physical activity, and life balance. Students receive points for completing tasks on a personalized spreadsheet and are asked to promote these activities on social media with #keepsmewell.
For the first time this year, this challenge was run nationally across Canada at 16 medical schools.
Do students enjoy Wellness Month?
From our perspective we would say that the students at Queen’s University are highly engaged in wellness month. This year we had over 40% participation!
Judging by the look of student’s posts on social media, wellness month definitively livens up their experience at Queen’s.
What’s been the impact on student life?
Wellness Month has increased awareness of the importance of overall health and wellness throughout the year. It allows students to take ownership over their health in a fun, community-oriented way. Wellness Month gives students techniques they can use throughout the year to improve their wellness.
Is Wellness Month integrated into the curriculum?
Wellness Month itself is not officially integrated into the curriculum; it is a student piloted project that is supported by the student government and faculty (although Queen’s does have an official wellness curriculum).
Has Wellness Month always had a nutritional focus?
Nutrition has always been a part of Wellness month. Since nutrition education, especially for students, can be challenging to integrate into our curriculum, including nutrition in Wellness Month gives students an opportunity to reflect on and understand our personal nutritional choices in a more casual setting.
Why a cookbook?
The idea of a cookbook came naturally. As all of the photos of healthy, delicious meals came pouring in through #keepsmewell, we had one goal in mind: figure out how to make those meals for ourselves!
Since the book’s inception, it has grown into much more and become a symbol of nutritional education and wellness for our students.
The book includes sections on breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts that were all made by students at Queen’s. Almost all the photos are student produced food photos. Interspersed within the pages are nutrition facts that will help us better serve our future patient’s nutritional needs.
Has faculty been involved in the project?
This project was conceived entirely by students. Faculty, have however been extremely supportive of the initiative and helped us transform this project from just a book with recipes to a tool that provides medical students with nutritional and culinary education within each recipe.
How has the book been received among students?
Extremely well! Who wouldn’t want to see their hard work in the kitchen published? The excitement and pride surrounding this project has helped spark additional interest in cooking healthful and tasty food.
Any plans for the cookbook to become part of Queen’s formal nutritional education?
While Queen’s has an integrated nutrition curriculum that is currently being revised, we’d like to keep the cookbook purely an extra-curricular project.
Long-term plans? Can we expect a second edition anytime soon?
There will definitely be a second edition coming next year. For now we want to distribute this edition to keep enthusiasm going throughout the year.
Depending on how this edition is received we may add more informational resources into the next edition.
How do we get a copy of the book?
The book is available for free download in e-Book or pdf format.