November 21, 2023

Volker Hall opens newly renovated relaxation spaces for medical students

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relaxation 2As part of Heersink School of Medicine’s commitment to providing an excellent experience for its medical students, renovations have been completed on the 4th and 5th floors of Volker Hall on the Birmingham Campus. The construction on these floors, which began earlier this summer, installed two relaxation spaces, including individual and group seating, tables, and a full kitchen. These new areas will serve a vital role in offering opportunities for students to further build communities and to decompress between medical school assignments and responsibilities.

Caroline Harada, M.D., Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives in Medical Education, served on the team that helped develop the new spaces. “Medical students are known to have lower wellness than their peers who are not in medical school,” she explains. “They also suffer from burnout and depression at far higher rates than those not in medical school. One of the most powerful tools to fight burnout is community building and networking with peers, and you can’t build community without the space to do it.”

relaxation 1This relaxation space, made possible by a generous monetary contribution from UAB’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, provides a physical area where medical student communities can gather and more effectively bond and network. “Our school prioritizes community-building,” notes Harada. “We have a robust Learning Communities program, with students who are deeply engaged in activities that include our peer mentoring program, student-organized social events, and a highly contested LC cup competition. We desperately needed a dedicated space for our students to take a break and form connections with each other.”

The Department of Medical Education’s desire to reinvigorate and expand the student gathering space was echoed by medical students in an Independent Student Analysis. Colin Quinn, a student in UAB’s Medical Scientist Training Program, served as a co-chair for the ISA. He reflects on the development of the Volker Hall 4th and 5th floors: “The medical community consists of lifelong friends, mentors, and mentees who help medical students succeed and carry them through the highs and lows of their careers in medicine. To build this community, it both metaphorically and physically requires creating space--emotionally making space to let others into your life and a physical space to foster these connections. The opening of the 4th and 5th floor addresses the latter and will only build a stronger community of doctors that will subsequently translate into superb patient care.”

relaxation 3Desalyn Johnson, an MS4 student at Heersink School of Medicine, assisted with compiling the survey reports from the ISA. Johnson says, “The opening of the new relaxation space shows that Heersink School of Medicine is dedicated to student wellness and ensuring our needs, from an educational as well as community standpoint, are addressed. This space will be a beautiful and inviting place for many current and future classes to enjoy.”

The relaxation spaces officially opened to student use on October 27, 2023. “We could not be more excited about the changes made to Volker Hall 4 and 5,” says Craig Hoesley, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education. “Our goal in the Department of Medical Education is to provide the best possible education to our students. While part of that mission is achieved through exceptional curriculum and training, a significant element in that mission is the quality of the facilities we provide students. These spaces will allow our students ultimately to be the best versions of themselves by allowing them to unwind and connect with each other when they need to.”

“We thank everyone who took part in making this possible,” Hoesley says. “It took a tremendous amount of teamwork and commitment from students, faculty, and staff alike. I also want to thank the Department of Family and Community Medicine for their contribution and support, which allowed us to turn Volker Hall 4 and 5 into a vital resource for our students.”

To commemorate the opening of the Volker Hall student relaxation spaces, the Department of Medical Education hosted a grand opening celebration on Friday, November 10, 2023.