In September, medical school leaders will bring together the WMed community, as well as the broader community, for a full-day event focusing on suicide prevention and personal well-being.
The inaugural WMed Suicide Prevention & Well-Being Promotion Symposium is scheduled for Friday, September 16, 2022, at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus in downtown Kalamazoo. The event is free and open to the public. If you plan to attend, please register via the WMed Continuing Education Portal.
Karen Horneffer-Ginter, PhD, the medical school’s associate dean for Culture and Chief Wellness Officer, said the educational event will feature morning and afternoon workshops – with eight options led by WMed faculty and staff – that will cover an array of important topics ranging from burnout prevention and mindfulness to the intersection of personal and organizational well-being.
“The hope is that attendees will come away with information and tools they can apply to support their own well-being,” Dr. Horneffer-Ginter said. “In addition, we want everyone to feel informed and capable of being in community with one another in ways that allow us to truly support our colleagues and peers, as well as the patients we work closely with.”
Attendees to the inaugural symposium, which is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on September 16, will be treated to a continental breakfast and lunch. They’ll also hear remarks from Dr. Horneffer-Ginter and WMed Dean Paula M. Termuhlen, MD, followed by the keynote address, “Suicide Prevention and Recovery: Working Together to Learn, Support, Debunk Myths, and Prevent” from John F. Greden, MD, chair emeritus for the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan.
The symposium is being held in memory of Rebekah Sharp, MD, a beloved faculty member at WMed, who passed away on August 29, 2021.
Dr. Sharp began her duties at WMed in 2018 as an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, following a nearly 11-year stint as a physician in private practice at OB-GYN, P.C. in Kalamazoo. She was a familiar face at the medical school, having served as a clinical assistant professor for almost two years prior to joining the medical school, teaching students during their third-year OB/GYN clerkships. Dr. Sharp was named program director for the medical school’s OB/GYN residency program in 2021.
After the tragic loss of Dr. Sharp, leaders from the medical school’s Department of Psychiatry and the Wellness Initiative committed to launching an annual educational event in conjunction with National Suicide Awareness Month and National Physician Suicide Awareness Day, both of which are recognized in September.
“It can often feel like there is no ideal time to discuss topics like suicide prevention and burnout prevention because the timing can either feel too soon or like an inconvenience when we’re busy and focused on other things. Then, suddenly, it can feel all too late when a tragedy occurs,” Dr. Horneffer-Ginter said. “So, I think it’s really useful to launch this annual event where we pause and focus on these important areas. I hope it can also serve as a catalyst for bringing about more programming, more support, and more resources.”
The symposium will boast several informational tables highlighting resources that are available at WMed. Among the tables will be one staffed by members of the Department of Psychiatry, as well as a table with information about the medical school’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and new wellness programming, which includes an app-based assessment tool. M2 Amanda Hunt will also speak at the conclusion of the symposium about a new student interest group for students who have lost loved ones to suicide.
“As we continue to focus on encouraging individual and organizational well-being, having this event during the month of September is an important way to honor our commitment to do things better,” Dr. Horneffer-Ginter said. “It will also ensure that we continue to have open and honest conversations at WMed about these essential topics.”