Network Provides Support System for Loved Ones of Medical Students
The pressures of medical school can take a toll on one’s health and well-being, not only for medical students, but also their loved ones. A network at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix educates loved ones on the demands of medical school and provides a unique support group to help ease these challenges.
The Friends and Family Network, which was founded by Stephanie Smith, director of Student Development, and Kelly Lynch, manager of Alumni and Student Relations, connects students’ external support systems to the campus.
“We feel it’s important to enhance student well-being by educating loved ones on student life, curricular requirements and college resources, as well as creating a community of support,” Lynch said. “The campus is committed to the success of each student. This program recognizes that friends and families are the students’ number one support system. We have always had a ‘family’ culture on our campus with the privilege of getting to know our students in addition to their friends and families.”Claire Pascavis, a committee member of the Friends and Family Network and wife of a fourth-year medical student, said her favorite part of the group has been sharing a medical school joy or challenge with a fellow member and hearing them agree saying, “We’ve been through or felt that too” or being the one providing that sense of inclusion for someone else.
A month prior to starting medical school, Pascavis moved halfway across the country to support Tyler, her husband, during his journey.
“Suddenly having new surroundings, it became very important to me to find a community early on which I could contribute to and rely on during the four years,” she said. “Once I met others who were also along for the medical school adventure and became part of the Friends and Family Network, I knew I had found that community.”
Pascavis added that the network has allowed her to share their experiences living through medical school. “When the medical student starts, their journey quickly becomes ‘our journey,’ especially for the spouses and partners. The Friends and Family Network has given me something to be excited about while Tyler is learning to become a physician.”Nicole Dahl, fiancé to a second-year medical student, said she has enjoyed the sense of belonging that comes along with being a part of the network.
“Medical school is a huge part of our lives right now and having a group that I can turn to for advice is assuring,” Dahl said. “Medical school is not an easy journey and it's wonderful to have the support of the Friends and Family Network.”
On April 17th, the Friends and Family Network invited admitted medical students and their loved ones to attend a session during Second Look. More than 40 applicants and 60 of their supporters — including parents, spouses, significant others, siblings and loved ones — attended the virtual session. The session included a panel of loved ones who discussed their medical school experience and how the network has helped.
“Medical school is life altering for the student, but also for those who love them,” said Dahl, who was on this year’s panel. “Having a session at Second Look last year tailored to friends and family helped me feel included and prepared. It was encouraging to hear advice from those who were further along in their journey and connect with others who became friends. Being a part of the Friends and Family Network community has helped me better support my medical student and find a community of people who understand what it's like to be a practice patient before Doctoring days.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the network, joining the Facebook community to receive monthly updates or have a question, please email the group or visit the Friends and Family Network page.
About the College
Founded in 2007, the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix inspires and trains exemplary physicians, scientists and leaders to optimize health and health care in Arizona and beyond. By cultivating collaborative research locally and globally, the college accelerates discovery in a number of critical areas — including cancer, stroke, traumatic brain injury and cardiovascular disease. Championed as a student-centric campus, the college has graduated more than 800 physicians, all of whom received exceptional training from nine clinical partners and more than 2,700 diverse faculty members. As the anchor to the Phoenix Bioscience Core, which is projected to have an economic impact of $3.1 billion by 2025, the college prides itself on engaging with the community, fostering education, inclusion, access and advocacy.