Episode 16: RUSM and the Wellness and Counseling Center


Wellness and self-care are essential for your success in medical school. At Ross Med, we have a team of professionals dedicated to student health and support. In this episode, Dr. Shannon Evans joins me for a conversation about RUSM’s Wellness and Counseling Center.

Episode 16 - RUSM and the Wellness and Counseling Center Transcript

Milena Garcia: Oh, welcome back everybody. Thanks for joining us again this week. My guest is Dr. Shannon Evans. Dr. Evans, let's take a moment to have you introduce yourself to our audience.

Shannon Evans: Great. Thanks for having me. My name is Shannon Evans. I'm a licensed clinical social worker in New Jersey and Tennessee, and I am the director of the Wellness and Counseling center in Barbados.

Milena Garcia: How did you get involved in counseling.

Shannon Evans: Oh, I've been in practice for about 15 years. I started working in some community centers, transitioning to a university Counseling Center in my home state of New Jersey before joining Ross as a counselor and then becoming the director in

Milena Garcia: And what is the Wellness and Counseling Center at Ross University?

Shannon Evans: Yeah, so the center is charged with making sure the wellness and mental health of raw students is healthy and maintained. So we are a team of mental health providers that provide an array of services to Ross students throughout their journey as they move towards becoming a physician.

Milena Garcia: And it's really important. I think people don't realize the rigors of medical school, as far as the academics and the toll, it takes on the students at the psychological level. Right. So thank you for what you do. And who's part of the team with you?

Shannon Evans: So we have three full time staff members that includes me. I also see students as a counselor and a coach. We have Dr Dahlia Gibson. She is a clinical psychologist and she's also a counselor and coach originally from Barbados.: And she is a counseling psychologist who works as a counselor and a coach and is originally from Trinidad and Tobago. We also have a counselor for our IMF campus and that is Dr. Maria Makiya

Milena Garcia: And that's in Miramar, Florida?

Shannon Evans: Yes, it is.

Reasons to Visit the RUSM Wellness and Counseling Center

Milena Garcia: Dr. Evans. What are some of the reasons why the students come in to see you?

Shannon Evans: As students come in for an array of reasons, we mostly see students first come in because they're struggling academically.

Shannon Evans: And they want to figure out what's going on and how they can improve their scores and how they can be successful academically. And a lot of times, students come in because they're struggling with things like anxiety and depression.

Shannon Evans: We also see some challenges with relationships navigating med school is difficult. It's a whole new set of responsibilities and time management so that sometimes brings conflict with relationships.

Milena Garcia: And what kind of services does the center offer to our current students?

Shannon Evans: Sure. So we provide two individual types of services. One is coaching and the other is counseling. Currently we're able to provide counseling services for students who are located in Barbados, New Jersey, Tennessee in Florida, and that's due to licensing laws. We also provide case management for students who need services that we can provide. So that might be counseling in a state where we're not licensed psychiatry, or any other support services. So our case manager is how's that of our mirror Mark campus and she helps connect students to those types of resources as well.

Milena Garcia: Are there any fun events or outreach programs workshops?

Shannon Evans: Yeah, so every semester we do different wellness workshops and we really work with student groups to identify topics that are relevant to these current students: So we've done some workshops on imposter phenomenon testing anxiety mindfulness. We've also really gone outside of the Counseling Center and explored Barbados by offering wellness hikes to students. So it's an early morning. We usually are on the bus by 5am but we go to different sites in Barbados, we do a three hour hike. It's a chance for students to connect with nature. Step away from the books for a little bit and get some regeneration going on in terms of their wellness.

Milena Garcia: That is really early. I guess for medical students that's just another part of the it's a normal day right

Shannon Evans: Yes, it is a clock. It's working hour

Milena Garcia: Is there a cost to the services?

Shannon Evans: So all of the services provided by the center are free. We do not charge for counseling, we do not charge for coaching or for any of the wellness events.

Milena Garcia: You also mentioned coaching. Can you elaborate a little bit more about it?

Shannon Evans: Absolutely. So coaching is a relatively new line of service for us at the center, we rolled it out in May of 2020. Our entire clinical team became certified health coaches and coaching as a non clinical service that provides support to students who might not need counseling. Things like stress management mindfulness relaxation techniques organizational skills motivation and mindset are just a couple of things that a health coach can really help students work through

Milena Garcia: And for anybody listening, we did another episode on anxiety as well as burnout. In medicine, so please go back and check out these topics and as well. Dr. Evans. What about emergencies. What happens if a student has a mental health emergency on the island?

Shannon Evans: Yeah, that's a really great question. So our center team manages any mental health emergency during regular business hours 8am to 5pm St. We have an on call phone or students can physically come to the center and they will be seen by one of our providers to do an assessment. For after hours, there is an EMT, who has another phone so it's all accessible by phone, and the EMT will consult with a member of our team as needed to make sure that students are supported who might be experiencing a mental health emergency

How the RUSM Wellness and Counseling Center protects your Privacy

Milena Garcia: And what does the center do to keep privacy for the students?

Shannon Evans: Yeah, so we make sure that we operate separate from academics and from any other support service on campus. We have a private office that is located in the villages that covertly near student housing. We also make sure we maintain privacy with regards to our electronic health records, our records, are not part of a student academic record. And there's a very clear separation. With regards to the roles of center staff so we only provide coaching and counseling, we do not teach, we do not participate in academic promotions or academic accommodations

Milena Garcia: Dr. Evans, I thank you so much for taking your time to join us here and share all this insight. This is such an important topic. I hope that our future Rossies understand the value of mental health and keeping yourself sane, especially during such rigors of medical school. Do you have any last recommendations or advice for a future Rossies coming in?

Shannon Evans: Sure, I always tell students that, you know, don't forget the basics. Make sure you maintain proper nutrition, sleep and exercise. Sounds really simple, but they're typically the first three things that students lose sight of. The second thing I'll say is there's very few times that you will be able to access free mental health services. I encourage you to try it while you can. Even if you've never experienced counseling before or you're not sure if you need it. But maybe you want to try the coaching line. I encourage listeners to reach out to the center and then we could help connect them in any way they may need

Milena Garcia: Beautiful. Thank you. Thanks again for the work that you do. I appreciate you taking your time.

Shannon Evans: Absolutely. Thank you. Bye bye.