Emphasis on well-being supports WVU Health Sciences students’ growth and success

Well-being is multi-dimensional and plays an integral role in overall health and happiness. During college – with classes, extracurriculars and part-time jobs – it can be challenging to find balance and prioritize wellness. But embracing well-being efforts, no matter how small, can have a large impact and make the experience more rewarding and enjoyable.

As students in West Virginia University Health Sciences’ five schools – Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing,Pharmacy and Public Health – pursue their purpose to serve others, the university is committed to helping them flourish in and outside of the classroom.

“For many of us, when we decide to get into health-related studies, we do it because we really want to serve,” Clay Marsh, M.D., chancellor and executive dean for Health Sciences, said. “We are privileged to be able to serve not only the community we have here at Health Sciences but also serve throughout our state and beyond.”

group of people getting food from a buffet
WVU Health Sciences and its five schools host a variety of events throughout the year for students, faculty and staff to engage with each other and focus on their well-being. During Diversity Week 2022, the School of Dentistry gave the community a taste of Latin America, the Middle East and East Asia during a mini showcase featuring dancing, music and cuisine from across the globe. (WVU Photo/Davidson Chan)

Connecting as a Health Sciences community

Through a robust interprofessional education program, Health Sciences students regularly engage with peers in other disciplines for collaborative simulation and clinical practice experiences. Beyond classroom-based lessons, the Health Sciences Campus community has additional opportunities to connect and enhance well-being through numerous programs.

Dedicated to building and maintaining a positive learning and working environment, the Health Sciences Blue Sky program was developed with a focus on three pillars – safety, curiosity and fun. The goals of the program are to reduce burn out, increase retention, increase levels of innovation and happiness, and nurture an increased sense of community, purpose and well-being. Since the program’s launch, students have had the opportunity to engage in activities including social gatherings, creativity sessions and research exploration.

Students seeking mental health services have access to BeWell, a satellite location of the Carruth Center for Counseling and Psychological Services serving individuals enrolled in an academic program housed on the Health Sciences Campus. The team of clinicians provides personalized care, group counseling and educational outreach in addition to referrals for Healthy Minds University, a program operated by WVU Medicine and the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute providing complementary long-term psychotherapy services.

The WVU Medicine Wellness Center, also available to the entire Health Sciences community, provides additional opportunities to improve mental and emotional health through its mindfulness series, and to improve physical health through numerous fitness programs and a conveniently-located gym, weight room and wellness studio.

An opportunity for access to fresh, nutritional foods takes place each summer and fall when the Farmers Market is onsite each week. Throughout the year, The Rack II at HSC provides non-perishable food items to those facing food insecurity.

To help students build strong relationships, connections and support systems with others, Health Sciences is committed to fostering a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment in which all individuals feel safe and welcome. University-wide initiatives such as Diversity Week, hosted by the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, as well as those sponsored by the Health Sciences Global Engagement Office, create opportunities to expand awareness, education, appreciation and understanding of others.

two people talking
Students enrolled in all Health Sciences academic programs have access to several well-equipped core facilities that support research at WVU, allowing them to pursue their passions and fulfill their purpose. The Core Facilities Showcase gives students, faculty and staff a chance to connect with experts working in the core facilities, as well as an opportunity to learn about the resources and services that are available to support research. (WVU Photo/Davidson Chan)

Building resilience within disciplines

Prioritizing wellness not only supports overall well-being for students, but it can also help support academic success.

With a renewed focus on resources, activities and workshops, the School of Dentistry has implemented several physical and emotional wellness initiatives during new student orientation and throughout the academic year, including student appreciation days, mindful eating education, financial guidance and curated playlists.

“Wellness has many facets, it’s dynamic, and so were our wellness activities [during orientation],” Valerie Perrine, DDS, associate dean for student affairs, community health and outreach, said. “As a former student, I can tell you first-hand, dental school will include the stress of finances, academics and social and community responsibilities. I can also remind the students they have the ingenuity, determination and resources to succeed.”

Throughout the School of Medicine, undergraduate programs such as Immunology and Medical Microbiologyprovide students with a variety of opportunities to find their purpose with hands-on experiences. During their freshman year, students in the program begin working in the lab and have a variety research opportunities through the Immunology and Medical Microbiology Undergraduate Research Internship Program, including projects in the fields of microbiology, infectious diseases, immunology, neuroimmunology, vaccinology, cancer cell biology and molecular biology.

Sophomores enrolled in the School of Nursing BS/BA to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, also known as the fast-track program, receive assistance through the “My Success Program.” Working with a peer coach, students receive assistance transitioning into nursing school by learning skills and practices for self-compassion and resilience.

In the School of Pharmacy, a variety of resident coordinator roles are available for those interested in leadership opportunities, including wellness and community service. Residents can also take advantage of well-being curriculum, wellness activities and a mentorship program.

Alumni are instrumental in building relationships, connections and support systems for students in the School of Public Health. Sharing career insights and networking tips, the School regularly hosts alumni panels and guest presentations to help serve as a catalyst for growth pre- and post-graduation.

“I chose WVU for my public health education because of the staff and program structure,” alumna Arielle Warner said. “My professors were engaged in learning about my career aspirations and would often put me in touch with the right people to gain advice and insight. Networking was one of the game changers in my experience in the School of Public Health.”

individuals buying goods at a farmer's market
WVU provides opportunities for the campus community to purchase a variety of produce and other food items from local farmers and vendors during Farmer’s Markets on the Health Sciences and Downtown campuses each summer and fall. (WVU Photo)

Enhancing well-being for all Mountaineers

WVU is working to enhance individual and collective well-being through programs, activities and initiatives for the entire campus community. From meditation, exercise and proper sleep to counseling, time management and tutoring, students can find the resources they need to support their well-being, build resiliency and succeed.

The Carruth Center for Counseling and Psychological Services provides self-care tips and online resources for students in addition to counseling, psychological and outreach services.

WELLWVU fosters the complete well-being of WVU students through education, promotion and related programs like time management plans, chillPACK daily activities, benefits of movement information and exercise and mindful eating tips.

For additional physical and mental health resources, care providers at Student Health Services are available to assist with a range of non-emergency health conditions and preventive care including urgent care, vaccinations to prevent illness, diagnostic care and consultations for a variety of concerns such as substance use, travel medicine and behavioral medicine.

With centers located on the Evansdale and Downtown campuses, WVU Campus Recreation offers a full lineup of programs and services from group fitness classes and intramural sports to personal training, crafting and a variety of other classes.

WVU Collegiate Recovery inspires and provides opportunities for students to make changes that support their recovery through activities centered around health, wellness, adventure, community, service and fun. Weekly meetings and activities, as well as special events and a dedicated gathering space, are available to all Mountaineers who are in any process of recovery.

To navigate the University’s resources, a well-being website has been developed to support students along their journey and help them reach their greatest potential.

WVU’s well-being initiative was formed in part following the results of Great Jobs Great Lives: The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index Report, a study of more than 30,000 college graduates across the United States, that affirmed the responsibility of higher education institutions is to equip students to not only pursue better jobs, but to successfully pursue better lives. The report segmented well-being into five areas: purpose, social, financial, community and physical, and explained how student experiences on campus affect their engagement in future jobs and overall life satisfaction. The report noted, “The odds of thriving in all areas of well-being more than double for college graduates when they feel their college prepared them well for life outside of it.”

To learn more about WVU Health Sciences and WVU’s five health schools, visit health.wvu.edu.

Photo at Top: Students take time to relax in between classes on the WVU Health Sciences Campus in Morgantown. (WVU Photo/Davidson Chan)