The medical school hosted more than 200 people at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. Campus in September for the Second Annual WMed Well-Being Promotion/Suicide Prevention Symposium.
The free, full-day event was held Friday, September 15, 2023, and featured morning and afternoon workshops covering important topics ranging from burnout prevention and mindfulness to regulating emotions and promoting personal and organizational well-being.
“I was so pleased with both the turnout of attendees and the willingness of so many people to present. I felt like we had a really good mix between mental health professionals and physicians who have taken very seriously the integration of well-being into their practices,” said Karen Horneffer-Ginter, PhD, the medical school’s associate dean for Culture and Chief Wellness Officer. “There’s something special about this coming together of the community, which is very much in line with the point of this event – learning more about these important topics and supporting each other’s well-being.”
Attendees at this year’s symposium heard remarks from Dr. Horneffer-Ginter as a kickoff to the event, as well as Valarie Cunningham, MSW, LMSW, CEO and founder of the Synergy Health Center, who presented “The Importance of De-stigmatization for Black Mental Health.”
The morning keynote address – “Revisiting Trauma, Toxic Stress, and the Roots of Well-being: Shifting Mindsets to Regenerative Growth for Ourselves, Systems and Community Care” – was presented by Alison Arnold, EdD, director for the Interdisciplinary Center for Community Health and Wellness at Central Michigan University.
Attendees participated in four separate breakout sessions during the morning and afternoon on September 15. The breakout sessions covered a range of important topics, including burnout, mindfulness and spiritual well-being, critical incident stress management, healthcare provider well-being, and Suicide QPR Gatekeeper Training, among other topics.
Attendees also got the chance to hear noontime remarks from WMed Dean Paula Termuhlen, MD, as well as the afternoon keynote address – “Stabilizing and Healing a Wounded Workforce: Holding Pressure, then Addressing the Source of the Bleeding – presented by Stefanie Simmons, MD, FACEP, chief medical officer at Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation.
“I think that people really appreciated how our morning keynote speaker, along with Valarie Cunningham, highlighted all of the interweaving factors we have to think about when we look at mental well-being and whole-person wellness,” Dr. Horneffer-Ginter said. “And our afternoon speaker provided a different message, one that was focused on the advocacy that is occurring to ensure that medical providers have adequate access to the mental health resources they need to thrive professionally and personally.”
The annual symposium is held in memory of Rebekah Sharp, MD, a beloved faculty member at WMed, who passed away on August 29, 2021. The event is also held in conjunction with National Suicide Awareness Month and National Physician Suicide Awareness Day, both of which are recognized in September.
Dr. Horneffer-Ginter said attendees were provided with a post-survey through WMed's Office of Continuing Education and the results will be important as work begins on content for next year’s symposium. She also said she was incredibly thankful for members of the WMed community who helped make this year’s event a success.
“Our team from WMed was so instrumental in helping with the planning for the symposium and all of the day-of logistics,” Dr. Horneffer-Ginter said. “I was so grateful to everyone who stepped up and showed up this year. The event ran smoothly and it helped create a quality of well-being during the day.”