Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program launches for students at OUWB
An image of a doctor and body, mind, and soul

Helping OUWB medical students live life with more presence, balance, and joy will be the focus of a new 8-week program centered on improved mental health.

“Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction” (MBSR) is an evidence-based, experiential program offering training in mindfulness meditation and movement practices in a group format, emphasizing integration of the practices into one’s daily life.

An orientation is set for Friday, Jan. 13, with subsequent sessions scheduled for Fridays from Jan. 20 to March 17. An all-day retreat is scheduled for March 4. The program is free.

Creating the opportunity for OUWB students to have access to such a program is the result of an initiative led by Berkley Browne, Ph.D., associate dean for Student Affairs.

“One of my priorities is making sure students have the opportunity to gain as many wellness and self-care tools as they can,” she said.

“Bringing something like this that is evidence-based, is well-known within the medical community, and has an established presence at Corewell was kind of a no-brainer.”

The program will be facilitated by MBSR-certified trainer Michelle Davila, N.D., Department of Integrative Medicine, Corewell Health William Beaumont Diversity Hospital.

“Medical school is very stressful,” she said. “My hope is that students are able to learn about different exercises and tools that they find useful and help them live life more fully and in a more balanced way.”

Helping with ‘overall well-being’

According to Davila, mindfulness is a concept that’s derived from ancient history — and specifically, Buddhism.

“It’s this capacity we all have to be aware of our present-moment experience while it’s happening,” she said.

Focusing on the present moment can have a wide variety of benefits, including self-awareness, greater capacity to regulate attention and emotions, and improved outcomes in various physical and mental-emotional conditions, including anxiety and depression, stress and burnout, chronic pain, and hypertension.

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“Stress exacerbates a lot of these conditions,” said Davila. “The thought was that if we can help people with their distress and suffering, we can help with their overall well-being and quality of life.”

The MBSR program was developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 and integrates traditional wisdom practices with western medical approaches.

Davila, a naturopathic doctor, said she’s been personally practicing yoga and meditation for about 20 years on her own. Further, she is certified to teach MBSR through Brown University.

Training sessions will vary, she said, with each week building on previous training. Examples of topics to be covered include: becoming aware and examining automatic and/or habitual perceptions; how people relate to things that are pleasant/unpleasant; body scan meditation; stretching; and mindful eating, communication, and movement.

“These are all just different ways to pay attention to how we’re feeling and what we’re experiencing in the body and mind,” said Davila.

‘Structured and intentional’

OUWB’s MBSR is not part of the curriculum, nor a requirement.

Students who complete the program will receive certification that can be used as part of their respective residency applications.

Browne said she expects that the program will be limited to 25-30 students. It is open to all classes. Sessions will be in-person.

There are several reasons the program is starting in January.

“We wanted to give M1s an opportunity to get a full semester underneath them,” said Browne. “The other piece is that January, February, and March in Michigan is usually very cold and snowy…we thought it would be good to offer a very structured and intentional program at a time when folks maybe don’t have as much motivation and energy.”

An informational orientation on the MBSR program will be held Friday, Jan. 13, from 1 – 3:30 p.m. in the Oakland Center’s Lake Huron Room. For more information email [email protected].

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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