May's Ontario Medical Student of the Month: Erica Lee

Erica Lee really defines altruism. As a 3rd year student at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University, not only does she interact with current students, she has managed to have an impact on the lives of students who have already graduated and surely also those yet to come. One of the primary reasons Erica should be recognized, among her many accomplishments, is her project to incorporate wellness activities into academic half days in clerkship. While mental health and personal wellness have always been a concern for students, especially those on clinical rotations, there is mounting attention on the topic given the prevalence of mood disorders and burnout among medical students and physicians alike. Student medical societies and other school specific groups across the country are trying to advocate for more wellness opportunities, ranging from integration of wellness concepts into core curriculum to universal wellness check-in appointments.

In her role as class president for the Class of 2015 Erica saw the potential to integrate more wellness during clerkship, one of the busiest years for students. She advocated for academic half days to incorporate not only enhanced social engagement for the clerks - who, while on various rotations in multiple locations, are not regularly able to interact in a non-medical setting if at all - but also health and wellness activities. It started with small things: providing lunch before afternoon seminars and bringing therapy dogs to campus.After very positive reception from her classmates, Erica expanded the activities offered; with the support of the UME office, Erica developed an afternoon that included snacks, therapy dogs, mindfulness meditation, yoga, and a chat with a personal fitness expert. Although these initiatives were organized and funded by students, through the Class and Hippocratic Councils, Erica is pushing for this wellness focus to become a permanent part of the academic half day schedule at the administrative level. Keeping in mind that Erica is currently a clerk at the same time as she is spear-heading all of this, it is even more apparent how exemplary her leadership, time management, and teamwork skills truly are. And, at the end of it all, Erica is as humble as ever, commenting that she just wanted to help support students.

-DK, Western student