Appointment of Medical School’s first chief wellness officer emphasizes well-being for future physicians.
Across the nation, medical students are more likely to experience burnout and depression than peers on different career paths, research shows. In fact, nearly half of all US medical students report symptoms of burnout, including emotional exhaustion, feelings of detachment toward patients, and a low sense of personal accomplishment. This elevated risk can persist into residency training.
The Warren Alpert Medical School is confronting that challenge head-on.
With the appointment of its first chief wellness officer, the School has taken a major step toward providing advanced support, guidance, and tools for medical students to protect their mental health and preserve their emotional wellness. As envisioned, the chief wellness officer will serve as a champion for the promotion of a healthy environment for students and for the development of lifelong skills to maintain physical and mental well-being during medical school as well as in their future careers. The full-time staff member will also help to develop and maintain a culturally competent wellness curriculum for medical students.
As the School’s inaugural chief wellness officer, Kelly Holder, PhD, brings a wealth of experience. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Oakwood University, a historically Black university in Alabama, Holder earned a master’s in psychology and PhD in clinical psychology at Loma Linda University in California. She completed her psychology internship at the Loma Linda VA Healthcare System and a postdoctoral fellowship in HIV mental health/behavioral medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
This summer, she joined Brown from the Penn State College of Medicine and Hershey Medical Center, where she directed the Office for Professional Mental Health, starting a mental health service for medical and graduate students that was eventually expanded to treat residents, faculty, and physicians. In addition to her role at the Medical School, Holder will also be an assistant director for Counseling and Psychological Services at Brown.
On the eve of the first-year medical students’ first exam, Holder discussed the importance of self-care for those training to provide medical care for others, and how her new position can help to support future physicians.