The Washington University Division of Dermatology is committed to maintaining the emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of its residents. We recognize that all physicians are at risk of burnout and depression, which adversely affects providers and the patients we care for. We have made it our duty to combat burnout and ensure we foster positive lifelong habits within our program.
Each academic year, the chief residents appoint a resident wellness champion (Dr. James Ko for the 2020-2021 academic year). The resident wellness chair acts as a liaison between dermatology residents and faculty to promote wellness events, maintain an ongoing dialogue regarding physician well-being. The resident wellness chair also serves as the GME Wellness Champion representative for dermatology.
In addition, we have an appointed faculty wellness champion (Dr. Paetra Ruddy for the 2020-2021 academic year). The faculty member will be a supervisor and ally for the residents to communicate with should resident wellness issues arise. The faculty leader will also serve as the GME Wellness Faculty Advisor representative for dermatology. Dr. Ruddy also serves as our residency program ombudsperson and is available to discuss sensitive issues in a safe, confidential environment.
During the academic year, the faculty wellness leader gives a formal presentation addressing the features and incidence of physician burnout, contributing factors and healthy coping mechanisms. There are also discussions of the symptoms and warning signs of substance abuse, depression, and suicidality. Quarterly resident town hall-style meetings are held with program leadership to address additional concerns within the program that may affect resident well-being.
We have also partnered with the Wellness Connection program run through the Washington University Human Resources Department. This program provides opportunities and resources for physicians to engage in physical and emotional wellness. An employee wellness consultant has been appointed to work with the WUSTL dermatology residents to lead an annual mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) session.
Additionally, there are 3-4 career development sessions each year to address professional identity, leadership and professional skills, and finding meaning in work throughout residency and beyond.
The resident wellness champion organizes events throughout the year that promote well-being and camaraderie amongst the residents. Examples of prior events include meditation sessions, yoga events, museum outings, happy hours, and resident dinners.
Mentoring and ‘derm families’
Upon starting residency, each resident is assigned to a ‘derm family’ consisting of PGY2, PGY3, and PGY4 residents and a faculty member. This family will be maintained throughout all three years of residency to serve as a support system and source of connection. Residents will be able to seek advice on studying, academic pursuits, as well as personal dilemmas or feelings of burnout. Each resident group will be reminded to check in with each other and their faculty mentor by the chief residents on a quarterly basis. Fellows within the Division of Dermatology (dermatopathology, pediatric dermatology, and micrographic surgery and dermatologic oncology) will also be included in these groups.
Residents are encouraged to complete the Mayo Well-Being Index at least quarterly, allowing for residents to monitor their own feelings in a confidential manner throughout the year. Residents who notice concerning trends in their burnout level will be encouraged to reach out to the wellness champion and/or program leadership, or to seek help via institutional resources.
Diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism
The Division of Dermatology is committed to providing equitable and inclusive patient care, research and learning environments. The Division is dedicated to working with faculty, residents and staff to create a culture that values the diversity of its members and the populations we serve – including individuals of all races, ethnicities, abilities, socioeconomic status, immigration status, veteran status, gender identities and sexual orientations. We pledge to provide clinically excellent and culturally responsive patient care and to recognize, and address, the ever present risk of conscious or unconscious bias and discrimination in all facets of service.
Recognizing the importance of educating culturally competent physicians and also understanding the critical need to support residents from backgrounds under-represented in medicine, we have created a resident committee on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-racism to help support our program leadership in developing programs and facilitating events to further discussions and understanding of the importance of anti-racism and inclusivity work. Resident committee leaders are Dr, Alex Aria, Dr. Alex Hickman, and Dr. Sion Jasmine.
Events and education
We recognize the importance of diverse representation in education, and have committed to incorporating images of dermatologic manifestations in skin of color in every didactic session. Additionally, we have dedicated skin of color lectures by Dr. Muithi Mwanthi, who directs the skin of color clinic, and a lecture on health disparities and social determinants of health as well as dermatology issues affecting LGBTQIA patients by our Associate Program Director, Dr. Kara Sternhell-Blackwell.
There are scheduled resident sessions throughout the year that address anti-racism and inclusivity including listening sessions, book clubs, film screenings and discussions, and social justice-oriented journal clubs.
Residents can participate in research projects in the area of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Additionally, patient care involves care for underserved and underinsured patient populations in resident clinic as well as our general dermatology clinics. Additional opportunities for community outreach and volunteer work in the St. Louis area are being developed.
Teaching Physician Pathway
Education is central to our work as physicians. While all dermatology residents gain experience teaching patients, medical students, and peers, residents specifically interested in pursuing a career in medical education can apply into the Washington University Teaching Physician Pathway (WUTPP) for more in-depth training. The WUTPP provides interested residents with the additional knowledge, skills, experience, and mentorship necessary to become skilled clinician-educators.
During PGY2 (first year of dermatology residency), interested residents may apply into the WUTPP and join residents from the other departments for a two-year program, including a two-week intensive didactic curriculum focused on educational theory, curriculum development, and teaching techniques in the fall of PGY3 and PGY4. WUTPP residents also participate in teaching sessions to gain hands-on teaching experience with medical students and residents in both small and large group settings throughout the year. Additionally, each WUTPP resident completes a scholarly project related to education, which also satisfies the dermatology residency program’s resident research requirement.
A unique benefit of joining the WUTPP is to work with residents and clinician-educators across the medical school, allowing for sharing of resources and increased opportunities for collaboration. During the two-week didactic curriculum, the WUTPP hosts residents and speakers from a variety of programs and departments. The WUTPP is directed by Dr. Patricia Kao, an Associate Program Director in the internal medicine residency program.
Dr. Alex Hickman is our inaugural WUTPP dermatology resident, and is currently working on an educational project with Dr. Kara Sternhell-Blackwell evaluating patient and provider satisfaction with sexual orientation and gender identity data collection.