Why Wellness?

Medical school is an exciting time of life. These four years represent not only a period of incredible academic and professional growth, but also a time for future physicians to investigate who they will become as human beings. It is potentially a sacred time of immense personal exploration, as students enhance their sense of self and discover their purpose in work and in life.

At the same time it can feel challenging or even overwhelming to cope with the new demands, long hours, and heavy study load. For many, medical school requires a level of independence that they have never experienced before. Coping skills utilized in undergraduate years may no longer be sufficient. Sometimes students believe that the only way to excel is to cut out all activities that take time away from studying, such as sufficient sleep, exercise, socializing, hobbies, and simply relaxing – even if these activities are crucial to maintaining health and joy.

At the Keck School of Medicine, we believe that a physician is only able to care for others if they care for themselves first. We acknowledge the stress inherent in medical school and encourage a culture of compassion for self and others, with an emphasis on work-life balance. Our mission is that our array of wellness resources not only helps students thrive throughout their four years of medical school, but inspires them to become champions of physician well-being in their future endeavors.

Please log into the student portal to access all the services available to Keck students. Student Portal

Wellness Mission Statement

  • Keck becomes a leader in the nation in student wellness by providing a cutting-edge, evidence-based, holistic wellness curriculum.
  • Keck strives to produce excellent future physicians by encouraging students to value taking care of themselves first.
  • Keck instills lifelong skills in interpersonal communication, cooperation and teamwork, self-awareness, integrative health practices, mindfulness, patience, compassion, ethics, and responsibility.
  • Keck acknowledges historical problems in the field of medicine including expectations of perfection, the culture of competition, mistreatment of students, depression and anxiety in students, and stigma in seeking mental health treatment.
  • Keck sets standards for a new culture of vulnerability, kindness, diversity, and open communication by cultivating change from both top down and bottom up.

Current Wellness Resources

Wellness programming is integrated into the curriculum so it is not a burden on students to attend. Workshops are offered as part of core curriculum, Orientation, Intersessions I and II, and Transition to Clinical Practice week. Topics this year will include self-care, time management, listening skills, impostor syndrome, challenging negative thinking, mindfulness meditation, anxiety reduction, coping with Step 1, self-compassion, burnout prevention, resiliency, spirituality, and “STEP UP!”, a peer suicide prevention program. In addition to the curriculum, Keck offers a plethora of wellness resources available to students, listed below. A wellness newsletter is sent via email each month to notify students of upcoming programs.

Mental Health

  • Director of Wellness and Assistant Director of Wellness, two in-house clinical psychologists available for mental health appointments
  • Free confidential therapy and psychiatric services at the student health center included in student health fee. Assistant Director of Wellness provides ongoing psychotherapy, in addition to the staff of counselors at the student health center
  • Keck Checks, mental health check-ins with a psychologist for each first year student
  • Keck Mental Health Survey, yearly self-screening mental health survey for all students
  • WellTrack, a free online platform with tools to manage stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Mental Health Awareness Month in March with “Mental Health Among Us” student and faculty panels, where panelists share their personal journeys with mental illness and seeking treatment
  • Wellness Hours on clerkships, supportive and confidential groups led by a psychologist for clerkship students to connect with each other and discuss challenging experiences as they begin clinical work
  • Mandatory Wellness Days on clerkships: students get one full day off per 6-week clerkship and a half day off per 4-week clerkship to use for wellness as they see fit. Students are required to take their Wellness Days
  • Mindfulness meditation is a part of the culture at USC, reflected in the larger MindfulUSC Initiative. Specific resources for medical students include:
    • Free drop-in class every Friday
    • Free intensive six-week class series available at the student health center; online version also available
    • Free intensive eight-week mindful self-compassion (MSC) course offered on Saturdays once per semester
    • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) elective course offered in Year 2
    • Two free premium meditation apps: Calm App and MindfulUSC App
  • Occupational Therapy Lifestyle Redesign Program, a professional service that creates individualized behavioral plans for students to improve time management, self-care, and work-life balance
  • Deans On Call service 24/7 – reach a dean any time you need to talk
  • Faculty members receive sensitivity training on how to identify and support students in emotional distress
  • A new Wellness Task Force comprised of the wellness directors, key faculty members, and student representatives, has the aim of taking a fresh look at policies, procedures, curriculum, and “hidden curriculum” which may impact student well-being

Social & Community Health

  • Social events calendar offered to all students with variety of events to suit every personality
  • Keck Peer Support, a confidential, student-run group that provides one-on-one peer counseling, weekly “debriefs” in group format, study breaks with snacks and advice, and a monthly email answering anonymous student questions
  • Big Sib / Little Sib program to foster mentorship and long-term connection between classes
  • Diversity and inclusion programs to celebrate students of all backgrounds including an extensive workshop on diversity at Orientation, monthly racial healing groups, and annual queer conference
  • Schwartz Rounds held quarterly for all hospital staff to openly and honestly discuss emotional issues in caring for patients and families

Physical Health

  • HSC Recreation Center, a full service gym available free of charge with student health fee
  • Free on-campus yoga classes
  • Free medical services included in student health fee
  • Free dietician included in student health fee
  • Free on-campus boot camp workout classes
  • Free “bike desks” available for checkout to exercise while studying

Spiritual Health

  • Office of Religious Life offers community of spiritual reflection, open to students of all faith or no faith
  • Christian, Catholic, LDS Mormon, Muslim, and Jewish student communities with regular gatherings

Financial Health

  • Workshops offered during Transition week and Intersession II to increase financial literacy and address the impact of indebtedness on specialty choice and lifestyle
  • Free one-on-one financial counseling

Academic Health

  • Academic Support Services provides specialized one-on-one academic coaching and peer-led review sessions
  • Years 1-2: Learning Communities. All first and second year students are placed in small learning communities to enhance long-term connection, comfort, and trust. Faculty mentors meet periodically with student groups to discuss a variety of professional and personal wellness topics
  • Year 3: Track Mentor Program. Students receive long-term, supportive contact with a faculty member and upperclassmen peer mentors, in the form of small group discussions approximately once per month throughout the third year. The nonevaluative, mentoring component of the relationship is emphasized