The time is now: educating future physicians on maintaining well-being

New appointment in the M.D. program will boost medical student programs, resources

May 15, 2018

Clinician burnout and well-being has become a nationwide conversation, which recognizes that provider stress begins as early as medical school. Accrediting bodies include student resources as part of evaluating medical schools (see sidebar) to ensure that schools equip future physicians with tools to help address provider stress.

M.D. program leaders at OHSU are addressing concerns of clinician burnout by teaching wellness and resiliency skills as part of undergraduate medical education. Megan Furnari, M.D., instructor of pediatrics, OHSU School of Medicine, has been appointed director of medical student wellness and leadership development. The 0.2 FTE position began in March 2018.

Dr. Furnari with studentDr. Furnari will coordinate student wellness efforts and leadership development for all M.D. students. She previously co-founded and directs the Women's Leadership Development Program, a curriculum aimed at mentoring women-identifying medical students. Dr. Furnari will continue her work with the WLDP, in addition to current faculty mentor Elizabeth Lahti, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, OHSU School of Medicine, and new faculty mentors Alisha Moreland-Capuia, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, OHSU School of Medicine, and Erin Bonura, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, OHSU School of Medicine.

"I'm hoping to bring more leadership programming to first and second year medical students as a way of improving well-being and returning that sense of purpose to this journey," said Dr. Furnari of her initial goals for medical student wellness. "I hope to create novel, innovative, and impactful connections between existing programming while adding relevant topics based on student needs and national recommendations."

Dr. Furnari and Lahti"The specific tools and resources just for M.D. students are currently evolving, as it is a unique path that does have challenges specific to the journey," said Dr. Furnari. "I'm a part of a collaborative of wellness directors at medical schools around the country. We are currently sharing ideas and programs that are particularly helpful for medical students."

"My goal is to make sure students feel like part of a larger community that is healthy, supportive, and motivated," continued Dr. Furnari. "We can make our learning culture nourishing and supportive not only for students, but for faculty, staff and leadership. It's up to us, and given the national dialogue around physician well-being, the time is certainly now."

The medical student wellness programs will be in addition to existing resources available to all students through the Joseph B. Trainer Health & Wellness Center (JBT). JBT provides resources that address multiple aspects of well-being, including primary care, behavioral health services, spiritual support resources and student debt counseling.

Meet Megan Furnari, M.D.

Dr FurnariDr. Furnari completed her undergraduate studies at Brown University, studying human biology. Her desire to further understand human beings and the science of healing directed her to Georgetown University for a master's degree in mind-body medicine and physiology with a focus the stress response. For medical school, she attended the University of Massachusetts where she studied mindfulness-based stress reduction and taught an elective on integrative medicine to her peers. She came to Portland for her pediatric residency and created the "Well Resident" program, a wellness curriculum for primary care residents at OHSU, which she directed for two years during her residency. With the help of OHSU medical students, the curriculum for residents was adapted and made into a medical student elective, which she taught. Her last year of residency Dr. Furnari was the president of the House Officer's Association and started working on leadership programming for women medical students, the WLDP. Realizing that well-being often comes from having vision and purpose, Dr. Furnari emphasizes developing leadership skills. She completed the relational leadership institute program at OHSU to improve her ability to understand the interprofessional healthcare team, and will be the moderator at the annual Oregon Medical Association Conference in September 2018. It is her life goal and passion to combine and teach leadership development and wellness in the medical school to ensure that trainees have fulfilled, inspiring, healthy careers in medicine.


Top: Dr. Furnari (left) with M.D. class of 2020 student Sasha Narayan.
Middle: Drs. Furnari and Lahti applaud WLDP students at a meeting in summer 2017.
Bottom: Dr. Furnari, newly appointed director of medical student wellness.