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A Space for the Most Important Patient

When Susan Willman, M.D., (Med ‘82), reflects on her Saint Louis University School of Medicine experience, she remembers many outstanding professors who encouraged her studies and took care of her well-being. When she donated a lead gift to create a student wellness space, she wanted to give SLU medical students room to develop their own wellness habits. 

A rendering of the wellness lounge

“Students have come into medical school in a very competitive fashion,” Willman said. “There is a lot of stress, focus on achievement, and anxiety about getting admitted. Once they are in, there is more anxiety around performance and worrying about the next steps of matching and residency.”

In conjunction with Lauren Schwarz, Ph.D., assistant dean of student affairs, Willman reviewed a wish list curated by current medical students and a quiet gathering space was their top choice. Strategically located near the counseling center and campus ministry, the new wellness space gives students a designated area in Caroline Hall to decompress, connect, and feel supported throughout their rigorous education schedule. 

“If medical students cannot care for themselves, how are they going to learn how to care for other people, too?” she said. “The message that self-care is important to its medical students is an extension of saying care for the patient is important.”

Willman hopes the space will reduce stress placed on medical students' shoulders. She seeks to help students realize the importance of self-care and maintaining personal connections so they may better take care of their patients. 

“Every day, when you get up and look in the mirror, you should see the most important patient you are going to ever treat: yourself,” she said.