UAB’s planned trainee wellness center is first of its kind in the Southeast

An in-hospital wellness center for medical trainees can reduce burnout and enhance the learning experience while stressing a healthy work/life balance.
Written by: Kendra Carter
Media contact: Bob Shepard

wellness 2A wellness center focused on the needs of physicians in training is slated to open inside UAB Hospital next summer.  

The first of its kind in the Southeast, the Graduate Medical Education Wellness Resource Center will give residents and fellows quick access to a multifunctional location in the hospital where they can go to decompress, exchange ideas, pursue research projects, visit privately with their families and exercise. Leaders say the idea for the space is to promote camaraderie, team-building and work-life balance, while helping the young physicians feel more fulfilled in their careers in medicine.

“The GME Wellness Resource Center will help residents feel that they are part of a vibrant team and will also build social support within and across training programs, a critical piece of well-being,” said Alice R. Goepfert, M.D., associate dean for Graduate Medical Education in the UAB School of Medicine and designated institutional officer at UAB Hospital. “As medical professionals, residents and fellows are at high risk of burnout, and we want to give them tools they need to care for themselves and their well-being.”

With a generous $500,000 lead gift from the UAB School of Medicine, UA Health Services Foundation and UAB Hospital and a gift of 3,348 square feet of centrally located space in the hospital’s West Pavilion, the new center will feature five specific zones to cater to trainees’ specific wellness needs. A hospitality zone will provide space for trainees to spend time with their families and children, and a home away from home for healthy meals provided for the physicians who are on call.

With a treadmill and a space to do yoga, Pilates or other exercises, the activity zone will give trainees the opportunity to attend to their physical well-being while on call or on long shifts. A designated mother’s room with lactation stations will provide equipment for pumping and refrigeration, along with technology that gives trainees the option to stay connected to their clinical cases.  

wellness 4Trainees will be able to study for their board exams or research cases in a quiet study zone, and the multipurpose meeting zone will encourage collaboration and team-based learning and provide space for professional groups to meet. 

A staff member managing the designated reception zone will ensure only trainees and their invited guests are in the space. Residents and fellows would have secure 24/7 key card access to the space. 

“Feeling overwhelmed and stressed has traditionally been an unavoidable consequence of becoming a physician, but we have learned that the extremes of these feelings in burnout are affecting those in the medical community at alarming rates,” said Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., senior vice president for Medicine. “In order to continue providing high-quality clinical training in a supportive learning environment, we must attend to our trainees’ well-being. Our new, unique center will help our trainees achieve a healthy work-life balance, have more time with their families, and help them build the mental and emotional skills they need to care for themselves as they care for patients.”

UAB Medicine employs more than 1,000 residents and fellows across the state, through residency and fellowship training programs in Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery and Selma.

The new wellness space will also help residency and fellowship programs across the School of Medicine continue to recruit the top talented young physicians from across the country to continue their medical training at UAB. 

wellness 5“A large percentage of residents continue to practice medicine in the states where they train after they’ve finished residency,” said Keith A. (Tony) Jones, M.D., senior associate dean for clinical affairs and chief physician executive of UAB Medicine. “By continuing to recruit and train outstanding doctors, we will continue to build a high-caliber physician workforce to care for Alabama’s residents.”

Construction is expected to begin in June 2021.

A campaign will raise the remaining funds to complete the project. Learn more and support the innovative GME Wellness Resource Center online.