Nurturing Well-being & Connection in Medicine

A Glimpse into the MODEL Program

April 16, 2024 – by Rebecca Handler

In the demanding world of healthcare, where the well-being of patients is paramount, it's often forgotten that the well-being of those who care for them — our physicians — is equally crucial. Recognizing this, the Department of Medicine (DoM) has launched an innovative initiative known as the MODEL Program. This program aims to weave a stronger fabric of mentorship, development,  and support within the department, underscoring the belief that for patients to be well, physicians too need to thrive.

The Genesis of MODEL: A Story of Compassion and Connection

The journey towards developing the MODEL Program began years ago with a profound realization from Kavitha Ramchandran, MD, Director of Clinician Educator Development. She realized that the healthcare system, often fragmented and overwhelmingly demanding, places immense pressure on physicians, leading to moral distress and burnout. Many physicians feel they have failed their patients, trapped in a system that doesn't support their primary mission – to heal.

Ramchandran was inspired by the work of Stephen Trzeciak, MD, an intensivist turned "compassion doctor," whose research challenges conventional wisdom about emotional detachment in medicine. Though Trzeciak once advised, "If you want to take care of yourself in medicine, don’t care too much, be detached," his findings have led him to discover the opposite was actually true. 

Kavitha Ramchandran, MD, Director of Clinician Educator Development 

In fact, research demonstrates that the key to resilience is not detachment or escapism – but meaningful relationships and care for others.

Drawing from the research by Trzeciak and colleagues  at Stanford Medicine's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Ramchandran embraces a key insight. She notes that compassion involves two steps: first, feeling empathy for someone in pain, and second, taking action to help. This process benefits not just the recipient but also the helper. It activates our reward center, reducing burnout and lessening compassion fatigue.

Addressing Faculty Needs

Armed with these insights, Ramchandran embarked on a mission to translate these principles into a tangible framework for Stanford faculty. 

MODEL Program Leadership (left to right): Co-Directors Upinder Singh, MD (left) and Kavitha Ramchandran, MD (right), and Program Manager Rebecca Geraldi

She began by conducting interviews with faculty from across department divisions . The Interviews revealed a common narrative of overburdening, limited opportunities for development, and a high incidence of burnout. This shared account underscored the need for a systemic solution that could offer support, development opportunities, and a sense of community.

Insights to Action: The Birth of MODEL

Leveraging these insights, the DoM took decisive steps to address these challenges head-on, culminating in the launch of the MODEL Program in January 2024. The MODEL program is proudly under the leadership of Ramchandran, Upinder Singh, MD, Associate Chair of Faculty Development, and Rebecca Geraldi, DoM Programs Manager for Faculty Development and Team Science.

The program stands on the foundational belief that healthcare operations, and more importantly, healthcare relationships are crucial to the well-being of both physicians and patients.

“MODEL is a mentorship program,” explains Ramchandran,  and mentorship plays a critical role in the training and career development of physicians and scientists. “A growing body of literature has documented the benefits of mentorship, which includes research, productivity, faster academic promotion, greater faculty retention, and career satisfaction,” says Ramchandran.

The program’s unique structure, focused on the "four C’s" of community, connectedness, culture, and commitment, was designed to meet the diverse needs of its faculty members, providing them with tailored mentorship opportunities, professional development resources, and a supportive network.

“Training the Trainer” – Enhancing Mentorship Excellence

Through a series of monthly medical and bioscience education seminars, the program offers a platform for participants to present their work, share skills, and engage in mentorship. From clinical trials to academic promotion discussions, the MODEL Program emphasizes the importance of fostering a supportive community that takes care of one another.

Christine Schirmer, EdD, Director of the Teaching and Mentoring Academy (TMA) in the School of Medicine, plays a crucial role in the training component of the MODEL Program, providing training for its mentor leads. This collaboration is part of a concerted effort to enhance mentorship within the DoM by equipping mentors with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively guide and support their mentees.

A significant highlight of the program is the "train the trainer" curriculum. This innovative approach equips selected mentors with an in-depth understanding of mentorship principles, communication strategies, and teaching methodologies. The goal is to empower these mentors to then deliver tailored training to their peers, ensuring that the principles of effective mentorship are disseminated. 

The strength of the "train the trainer" model lies in its sustainability and scalability, allowing for a widespread impact on mentorship practices across the department.

Christine Schirmer, EdD, Director of the Teaching and Mentoring Academy (TMA)

“Much of our team is in the early stages of their careers. A well structured mentorship program is crucial for their career development, satisfaction, & sense of belonging." - Minjoung Go, MD

Tailoring Mentorship to Community Needs: The Tri-Valley Experience

To seamlessly integrate these concepts into practical applications, the MODEL Program has been tailored to meet the unique needs of various communities within Stanford Health Care. One notable example of this adaptation is its implementation in Stanford Health Care Tri-Valley.

Leader of the Tri-Valley mentorship group Minjoung Go, MD, provided valuable insights into how the MODEL Program has been adapted to meet the specific needs of this community. The Tri-Valley area, incorporating the communities of Pleasanton, Livermore, and Dublin, became part of the Stanford Health Care system in 2015. Since then, it has seen substantial growth in its clinical capacity, with a significant increase in the number of specialty clinics and faculty members dedicated to serving the local population.

Go underscores the remarkable journey of the Stanford Health Care faculty in Tri-Valley, from the establishment of the Hospital Medicine Division with just three hospitalists to the current robust team of approximately 400 credentialed School of Medicine faculty members. This rapid expansion highlights the pressing need for structured mentorship and professional development programs tailored to the unique context of community hospitals. 

Go highlights that the demographic diversity of the Tri-Valley faculty, with a significant representation of women and early-career faculty members, emphasizes the necessity of mentorship initiatives that address the unique challenges faced by these groups. “Many of our team members are still in the early stages of their career,” says Go. “I strongly believe a well structured mentorship program will play a crucial role in fostering their long-term career development, satisfaction, retention, and sense of belonging.

Celebrating Success and Looking Ahead

As we reflect on the stories of growth, connection, and resilience that have emerged from the MODEL Program’s first year, it's clear that this initiative is more than just a mentoring program. It's a movement towards a more compassionate, connected, and resilient healthcare community.

Learn more about the MODEL program and stay updated on developments here.

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