Dr. Michelle Lall, an Assistant Professor and Assistant Residency Director is dedicated to promoting work-life balance and resilience among her co-workers and nationally. She was inspired in part by her experience growing up as the daughter of a physician who worked long hours his whole life. In addition to promoting wellness through national committees, she has developed a multi-tiered approached involving faculty, residents, advanced practice providers, as well as significant others to promote wellness at every level in her department.
Name: Michelle Lall, MD, MHS, FACEP
Location: Emory University
Current Job(s): Assistant Residency Director, Assistant Professor Department of Emergency Medicine; Wellness Committee Chair; wife; mother of 3
Resilience and Wellness Program/Initiative: Chair Wellness Committee Department of Emergency Medicine; Wellness Ambassador for the Department of Emergency Medicine to the Emory University School of Medicine; Course director and co-founder of an advanced wellness curriculum: “Putting Wellness Into Action”; Director – Wellness the Significant Other (for EM residents)
Length of Time: Our department wellness committee has been active for over 10 years. The advanced wellness curriculum is new this year.
How did you become interested in Wellness and Resilience?
I grew up with a physician father who loved his work but worked 60+ hours a week for more than 40 years. He had no concept of work-life balance. His life was work. When I went to medical school, I promised myself that I would take incredible care of my patients but also of my family and myself. My interest in wellness sparked from my commitment and interest in work-life balance. As my family grew so did the demands on my time, and I realized the critical importance of wellness and resilience in keeping my life and career as balanced as possible. I want to love Emergency Medicine for the long haul and in order to do so, I have made wellness is a priority.
What resilience and wellness initiative have you started? What is your role?
I have the privilege of chairing a well-established departmental wellness committee. We have faculty, residents, APPs, staff, and significant others on our committee. This committee is an energetic and dynamic group that represents every group in our department. As a committee, we coordinate social events, develop workshop and retreat content, and conduct scholarly activity through research and curriculum development. Wellness and resilience can be fostered on the individual level but activities on a larger scale are also beneficial. As an off-shoot of this committee, we held a session for the significant others of our EM residents during our annual resident retreat. We had a lively discussion surrounding work-life balance, second victim syndrome, and coping strategies for our significant others. This year we held an APP wellness retreat and are currently planning a wellness retreat for the faculty in early 2017.
I co-developed an advanced wellness curriculum for second year EM residents. In this longitudinal course, we focus on “putting wellness into action.” We have a variety of sessions that include topics such as mindfulness, self-care, positive coping strategies, reflection and coping with the demands of professionalism.
What has been the outcome or result of this initiative?
Our wellness committee continues to grow and become increasingly active and productive. The new curriculum has been very well received and will continue next year with the hope of expansion into other programs (both EM and other subspecialties). Our significant other support group is growing and actively planning events through out the year. Additionally, we have instituted a peer support group that is resident driven and faculty supervised.
What hurdles have you had to overcome?
Time has been my biggest hurdle. Our wellness committee has grown and so has the time commitment necessary to keep all of our members on task so that we can see our ideas through to completion. Faculty buy in has been good and continues to improve but culture change is slow.
Where have you found support?
I have had incredible support from my Department Chair Dr. Kate Heilpern, my PD Dr. Philip Shayne, and my Wellness Committee Chair predecessor Dr. Sheryl Heron. I have been fortunate to have found a great faculty partner in crime at Emory – Dr. James O’Shea.
I have found support on the national level as well through CORD (specifically the Resilience Committee), ACEP’s Well Being Committee, and with my colleague Dr. J Kimo Takayesu (we have co-presented on burnout and resilience several times).
What do you see as most important for promoting wellness in your program?
I think having a dedicated group who lead by action and example is the most important factor for promoting wellness in our program.
What would you recommend as important, practical steps that individuals at other institutions could take?
Form a wellness committee and include people from all facets of your department – faculty, residents, APPs, staff and significant others.
Start small but incorporate wellness longitudinally throughout your resident educational curriculum. Focus on topics that will spark conversation and have and experiential component like self-care, mindfulness and emotional regulation on shift. There is a lot of great wellness and resilience information out there so use it, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. And remember that none of us are “experts” so don’t be hesitant to lead a discussion or session surrounding wellness even if it is outside of your comfort zone.
Find partner(s) in crime to help you support the wellness initiatives in your department.