University of South Florida

IAMSE webinar series aimed to reduce burnout in doctors and students

Chronic stress and burnout are prevalent among more than half of health care professionals, including medical students. That is why The International Association of Medical Science Educators (IAMSE) is now featuring a series of web seminars Jan. 5, Creating a Culture of Well-being at an Academic Health Center.

“We are trying to be more aware and increasingly proactive in identifying students who potentially display signs of burnout.” said Bryan Bognar, MD, vice dean for Educational Affairs at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine (MCOM).   “This seminar series is an opportunity for us to pause and reflect on these important topics that are of significant concern to all medical educators.”

Burnout is defined as a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and low personal accomplishment leading to decreased effectiveness at work. Some key identifiers of burnout include excessive workload, an inefficient work environment and inability to maintain a health work-life balance.

A 2015 study by the American Medical Association and the Mayo Clinic concluded that burnout rates significantly rose in 2014 compared to 2011. Dr. Colin West, professor of medicine, medical education and biostatistics at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, called the burnout rate a “public health crisis” during a Jan. 5 web seminar. Statistics show that more than 500,000 medical professionals, across all disciplines, showed signs of burnout. Additionally, more than 40,000 cases were reported among medical students.

“Burnout is cyclical. To me, the only way to prevent burnout in medical school is to say ‘it’s okay for me to step away to do something I love that’s not related to medical school’,” said Vinodh Chandra, third-year medical student at MCOM. “This is an issue I’ve had to deal with personally. In my experience, it’s not just one single stressor at one point in time. It’s multiple demands and chronic demands that turn into perceived stressors that, over time, will wear someone out emotionally.”

One step MCOM has taken to prevent burnout is conducting the Collegia Olympics. Student groups will participate in a six-week competition designed to build healthy habits and promote healthy lifestyles. Groups have the opportunity to earn points by:

  • Attending group fitness classes.
  • Completing a resistance workout.
  • Drinking eight cups of water per day.
  • Walking 10,000 steps per day.
  • Sleeping a minimum of seven hours
  • Completing a physical exam or body composition exam.

Other services provided include an MCOM learning skills specialist, an aid for those experiencing academic challenges and who is readily available for students to talk to, and the USF Health Wellness Program.

“To be a good medical student and ultimately a good physician, building healthy habits and promoting healthy lifestyles are a must to prevent burnout and recover from burnout. However, identifying burnout is up to the students,” said Chandra. “Students need to be equipped with the knowledge and awareness to be able to identify burnout. The college does a tremendous job of providing resources to the students in order to address burnout.”

The IASME web seminars will continue every Thursday at noon until Feb. 2. The remaining sessions include incorporating mind-body medicine by Adi Haramati, PhD, and cultivating resilience by Michael Krasner, MD. Register for the seminars at

Story and photo by: Freddie Coleman, USF Health Office of Communications.

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