Episode 14: RUSM Addressing Anxiety


Medical school can be a stressful time for the students. In this episode, Dr Maureen Hall talks about how the Academy for Teaching and Learning supports the students through stress and anxiety.

Episode 14: RUSM Addressing Anxiety Transcript

Milena Garcia: Welcome back everybody. Thanks for joining us. Now joining me today is Dr. Marine Hall. Dr. Hall, thank you for joining us. Please let's take a moment to have you introduce yourself to our listeners.

Dr. Maureen Hall: Hi, I'm Dr. Maureen Hall. I am an associate professor of medicine at Ross University School of Medicine. I've been with the institution for the past 11 years. I served in a variety of capacities: I serve as an advanced academic coach and author. I'm an educational scientist with a background in lifelong learning and medical simulation. My role primarily involves individual coaching as well as small group teaching and helping students with meta cognitive skills as they develop their lifelong milestones.

Milena Garcia: And Dr. Hall is part of the ATL, the Academy for Teaching and Learning. Dr. Hall. What is the ATL?

Dr. Maureen Hall: Okay besides saying that the ATL stands for Academy for Teaching and Learning, ATL really is a group of faculty with expertise in a variety of background that support all students not just struggling students and I want to clarify that, because many people think that “Oh ATL is just for struggles,” it's not correct. ATL supports all students and everyone. Everyone needs help in a variety of different things. And so we provide those services for you. There are times where we work with a student, we may need to refer them to another department. And that's okay. And sometimes other departments, such as counseling or exam center or your mentor or medical sciences or clinical sciences, they always refer students to us, so we provide support again with every student, not just struggling.

Studying Tips for Medical School

Milena Garcia: Now, Dr. Hall. I think one of the biggest misconceptions I hear from incoming students is the fact that they assume that studying the same way that they did in undergrad or their graduate program will work in medical school. Can you talk a little bit more about how medical school is different from the undergrad institutions that our future Rossies are attending now?

Dr. Maureen Hall: Yes, this is a wonderful question. I love this because when we did the introduction to medical school. We always ask this question: How is medical school different and the number one answer we get back from students is the volume. Yes, indeed, it is the volume, but it's a little more than that. It's just managing your time. Time management is key. So we talked a lot about time management. Because if students can manage their time appropriately, this work is very easy. That's number one. The other thing I want to highlight here is the higher order thinking. Many students come in and they're able to memorize things very well, they say well I'm a visual thinker or I'm a hands on person. But the main thing is really being able to critically think and critically thinking is just asking yourself questions. Questions about how the content is being presented to you and how best you can, once you gather the main ideas, how best you can apply them. Because what we really test you on, based on the exams that you will be testing, it's based on application. So it's not even though you have to remember things you have to understand it. You also must be able to apply it. And so the motto or quote that I would share with students and I will tell them I need you to analyze more than you memorize. And they look at me startled, like, what, how can I do this. So memorizing is very easy to do. But if you understand why you need to memorize something and you can analyze it, you can apply it. Application helps with understanding, which helps with memorization. So, analyze this then memorize.

Milena Garcia: And what are some of the issues you see the students have with this amount of information that's being thrown at them?

Dr. Maureen Hall: Oh, yes, sometimes it can be overbearing for some students, and as a result they become over anxious. Anxiety is a key and sometimes with this anxiety, I want them to make sure this is something that is underlying, otherwise we're not sure there is a medical condition. So it's always best to be checked out by your medical doctor to be sure that this anxiety that you may have. It's not something that is just because of the overwhelming content. It could be medical as well. The other number two, I would say is depression. Some students once they feel the volume and you're competing against yourself, when I say that I mean that so many people are going to be just like you, just as brilliant as you are. And you're competing with these brilliant people. And so that you know, more overwhelming and sometimes students become depressed because they're not performing as well as they want to. Or what they think that they should be. And so it leads to depression. Again, always think about your loved ones. And so if somebody in your family's not well, or you’re not yourself, not well, you tend to become a little depressed about it, but the pace and how things are happening. And finally, I was saying “Don't be afraid to reach out.” We're all…. Everybody is together. And we're here, Ross. All our Ross faculty, we love our students and we want to share and we want to help you. But we can’t help you if we don't know what you need. So it's always good to reach out. Loneliness can be an issue. And that's one of the reasons why we tried at the very early part of our program to bring up the routine of study buddies and how to form groups, and and sometimes some groups or officials, as well as some times you can work on them on your own. But again, I agree that this building is something that students tend to deal with.

Milena Garcia: And I think those three are also integrated, right? One can lead to the other and it becomes a vicious cycle. So as far as this anxiety and depression and loneliness, what can the students do, the pre med or our current med students, to prevent or overcome this anxiety?

Dr. Maureen Hall: Anxiety can be overcome. Firstly, we're thinking out of the box, seeking help when it is needed. Working with groups. Asking for support, setting efficiently and effectively. How do you do that? That's what ATL does. We should provide you with this information. And the key thing is, everyone is different, even though sometimes we have a launch group session. And there are times we have to have a small group session. And there again, there are times when we have that individual talk with you because every one of you, you are a neat, unique and so we provide this and we can provide scales of how your anxiety, if it's something that we need to refer to the Counseling Center, where we have a center that we provide extra support for students. You know, sometimes you come with it. Maybe your medications made need to be adjusted. But there may be a variety of reasons why the anxiety is there but we at ATL help with the first set of people that can help you to get the support that you need to overcome the anxiety that sometimes comes with not not being prepared.

Dealing with Self-doubt in Medical School

Milena Garcia: What about self doubt?

Dr. Maureen Hall: When I think of self doubt, I think there are a lot of students who come with the thinking that, oh my goodness, this is so much, there is no way I can do this and that this is all I want. Now she did this one. Now he did this. They are looking at everybody else but themselves, but every one of you can do that. And that's why I love the department that I'm in. I love the work that we do. Because we believe each student that we've accepted is a genius. Each student that we've accepted can do this work. And if you don't know how, we will show you

Because we know you have the talent to do it. And so that's how we help the student, but then when students become overwhelmed with lack of belief that they can do this work, they have this fear and the fear paralyzes them, shuts them down. They won't seek help and loneliness comes in, they've been there. That comes into the cycle. Here comes depression, inside right back where we started, right?

Milena Garcia: And you mentioned, this is where we come in. So can you talk a little bit more about some of the examples of what we do here at Ross to support the students?

Dr. Maureen Hall: The Academy for Teaching and Learning, the ATL, we provide support to students. We provide pre-matriculation courses. You may understand some of the other videos that talked about this.

Milena Garcia: Yes, we did. Thank you.

Dr. Maureen Hall: Yes. During our orientation. We provide strategies, cognitive skills, workshop strategies that give you the information up front, we prepare you with all the tools that you would need in advance so before medical school day one starts, you have an idea of what your schedule looks like, how to deal with your time, how to study efficiently, how to be effective, where to find things the resources, who your faculty, all these things will be provided with you. So you're not last, but then there's a lot of coming at you, so you may not remember every single thing. So then we come back to the ATL. We provide individual meetings. Because it may be an issue for someone or support for you may be a little different. So we individualize our support and that's what I like most and some students prefer to be seeing before the classes start. So we provide individual support before the classes start and then we try to put things in during week one. We also have a peer tutoring program, not just the ATL faculty, but also the pair's who've gone through what you will be going through to provide the support for you and that is under the auspices of the ATL. We have our mentoring program that also provides that support for you. So we work in a collaboration to provide the support for you. And again, it can be in a large group, small group, but also that individual component is also helpful and the same as we also give students resources. We have a web page where we provide resources for students, test taking strategies, even dealing with anxiety and how to create a schedule, all these things that we know that always come up. We provide this support for our students.

Milena Garcia: And for everyone listening. We did do an episode entirely on the ATL, as Dr. Hall mentioned, so make sure to go back and check that out as well. Dr. Hall, how do you feel the students can improve their positivity?

Dr. Maureen Hall: Now that that is great. That's one great way students can overcome anxiety is by staying positive. I think you have to keep alert, keep an open mind. In terms of the activities and extracurricular activities that we have, you can be a part of those groups as well, that provide tips and information and encouragement about how to work through your programs or how to work through these courses we have that provide the peer tutoring that  provides support for our students, and helping them to resolve really to use the resources that they have earlier is best. Reach out and use the resources. When I say resources. I'm referring to tips that we will put on our website. Coming in and seeking help from an academic coach within the ATL. If you have an issue with biochemistry, you may have been away from biochemistry for a longer time, just meet with a faculty. You will say “I have reviewed this content, I've looked at your learning objectives, I have looked at their life section lecture presentation, but I'm still a bit confused.” So at this point you can let the faculty know what your issues are and they will provide the resources to help you. And again, we add ATL can help you to see how best to approach biochemistry, or if it is anatomy, how best to approach anatomy. We can provide you with tips, individual to how you learn, whether you are a visual learner, or auditory learner. We provide those support for you.

Milena Garcia: And it's not the same right? Studying for biochemistry may not necessarily be the same way of studying for anatomy, for example.

Dr. Maureen Hall: We could just work with you and observe you and see how we can help you to improve and be able to make the best out of whatever subject it is. And I've seen students do it, and students have done it before you. You are coming, you can do the same.

Milena Garcia: Dr. Hall. This is great information. I certainly appreciate you taking the time to join us. Do you have any last suggestions or advice for our future Rossies on how to be successful in medical school?

Dr. Maureen Hall: Yes, I do. So first I'm going to tell you to come with an open mind, you are welcome here, we've accepted you, you belong here. And then the second thing, and I will say stay positive. There are some positive people around. Some people are more positive than the other. Stay with positive people. Share your schedules with your loved ones, your family, if you're a distant, away from them as maybe the first time you're away from home, you want to share them to let them know what is going on and make sure that you have the support that you need that person that you can call on to help you. To be there, just to give you a word of encouragement and in fact that you need to be able to call if you’re unhappy with it there and also you want to make sure of self care. I can't over emphasize self care taking care of yourself.

Loving yourself, having faith in yourself, believing in yourself. Those things are good. So with that said, you can't study for a long time without taking a pause. You have to keep up with nutrition. Yeah, to take your supplements. Right. You have to remember to do your exercise.

Those of you who bring your dog, your pets along, make sure you find time to walk outside and enjoy the sunshine that we have here in Barbados. So it's just being well rounded and believing and seeing yourself achieving the goal that you've set for yourself and I guarantee you that is able to be a date and that's what we're here for, to support you as you obtain your goals.

Milena Garcia: Absolutely. And please everybody take advantage of this,  Dr. Hall has been with us for a long time. She's worn many hats. So she knows what it takes to get everybody there successfully. Dr. Hall, thanks again for joining me. I appreciate you sharing all this information without us.

Dr. Maureen Hall: Thank you. My pleasure. And I'm looking forward to seeing you around campus.

Milena Garcia: Thank you. Same here. Bye. Take care.