KYCOM faculty and students make mental and physical health a priority

Twice a week Dr. Cathy Rehmeyer, professor of pathology at Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (KYCOM), gathers with medical students for guided meditation. In a profession focused on caring for others this short time is spent on self-care. The growing group practices Shamatha meditation, which concentrates on mindful breathing with open eyes.

“Shamatha meditation attunes our mind to the present moment by focusing all of our attention on our breath,” said Rehmeyer.

Rehmeyer became interested in meditation on a personal level, but she knew early on that medical students would benefit greatly from the stress-reducing activity.

“For students in a very rigorous program, this ability to relax the mind and abide in the ‘now’ is tremendously helpful,” said Rehmeyer. “It will hopefully extend to their future medical practice, allowing them to focus and be truly present and attentive with each patient that they encounter.”

Rehmeyer discussed her mental wellness idea with KYCOM administration and received full support.

“As an osteopathic medical school, the mental, physical and spiritual wellness of our students is a priority,” said KYCOM Dean Dana Shaffer, D.O., FACOFP, dist., FAOGME. “Beginning during first-year orientation and throughout their time at KYCOM, we emphasize to students the importance of self-care and work/study balance.”

Guided meditation is not the only mental and physical wellness benefit offered to KYCOM students. Second-year medical student Michelle Kommor leads the Mental Health Awareness Task Force at KYCOM, with Rehmeyer as the faculty champion.

“As Mental Health Chair, it is comforting to know that the faculty and administration at KYCOM have our back in promoting a healthy, positive atmosphere for its students,” said Kommor.

The task force offers smoothie bowls during block exams, Med Paws (an animal emotional support event), meditation and social media contests with prizes. Although the group has only been operational for one full year they already have plans to grow by offering students a peer support group, and an on-staff counselor and a mindfulness-based stress reduction meditation program.