VickersReflecting on the past year as we set off into 2018, I am energized by our steady progress – and some major leaps forward – across all our mission areas, in medical education, patient care, and research. On January 24, I will deliver the annual State of the School address, which highlights achievements from the past year in the core values of academic medicine that I believe set UAB and the School of Medicine apart. The address will be livestreamed online, so I invite you to watch live or check the website after the event to watch a video of the presentation. What’s more, our School of Medicine 2017 Annual Report will publish this month, and is available now to read online in digital form.

Many people have made New Year’s resolutions to improve their health and well-being. Physicians in particular face unique wellness challenges, especially around stress management and work-life balance, which can have serious consequences. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, physicians have higher rates of burnout, depressive symptoms, and suicide risk than the general population. Moreover, physicians who experience mental health distress are less likely than other segments of the population to seek treatment, whether because of time constraints, reluctance to draw attention to self-perceived weakness, or concerns about reputation and confidentiality.

At UAB Medicine, we have made a firm commitment to physician wellness a touchstone of our mission. As part of that ongoing commitment, this month I am pleased to announce that David Rogers, M.D., MHPE, senior associate dean for faculty affairs and professional development in the School of Medicine, became UAB Medicine’s inaugural chief wellness officer effective January 1. In his new position, Dr. Rogers will define and track specific measures of well-being, institute training designed to improve stress management and resilience, create organizational change that promotes wellness and engagement, and contribute to scholarship on health care provider wellness and engagement.

Dr. Rogers’ work in physician wellness began several years ago when UAB Health System CEO Will Ferniany and I asked him to examine ways we might reduce stress levels reported on our faculty engagement surveys. As chief wellness officer, Dr. Rogers will continue to expand on these efforts. One idea he hopes to adopt is the commercialized version of The Mayo Clinic’s “Well-Being Index.” This allows physicians and researchers to answer a short questionnaire anonymously that calculates their burnout risk and directs them to a list of local and national resources that can help.

A commitment to supporting the mental health and well-being of friends and colleagues extends to our faculty and trainees as well. Residents and faculty from the Departments of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Emergency Medicine, Surgery, and Psychiatry participated in the 12th Annual Out of the Darkness community walk last November. Hosted by the Alabama chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the three-mile walk raised awareness of the importance of mental health and suicide prevention, as well as funds for research and education. You can read more about the walk here, and learn about the work of the School’s Professional Development Office, led by Assistant Dean of Professional Development Sandra Frazier, M.D. She and her team work with medical students, residents, fellows, and physicians at UAB to address issues such as anxiety, depression, substance-use disorders, and behavioral issues in a confidential setting.

I and all of UAB Medicine’s leadership want working and learning here to be as rewarding as possible for our faculty, staff, and trainees, and the work of Dr. Frazier and Dr. Rogers is a critical part of fostering that environment. I look forward to supporting their efforts to support our caregivers and students in 2018 and beyond.

Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS
Senior Vice President for Medicine and Dean
James C. Lee Endowed Chair

P.S. The 45th Annual Medical Alumni Weekend is coming up Friday and Saturday, March 9 and 10. Don’t miss this chance to visit the School of Medicine campus, reconnect with friends, and take part in some fascinating CME sessions, which this year focus on Precision Medicine. Visit the MAA website to see the full schedule and register for Alumni Weekend.