Message from the Chief Wellness Officer
The Michigan Medicine Wellness Office is currently undergoing a national search for the next Chief Wellness Officer.
No new messages are available at this time but archived messages are available below.
Read Past Messages from the Inaugural Chief Wellness Officer Kirk J. Brower, MD
November 2022 CWO Message (Kirk Brower, MD)
March 2021 CWO Message (Kirk Brower, MD)
As we reach the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, it is natural for us to pause and reflect on the experience. Most of us have felt stressed by COVID-19 in some way to some extent. We may have trouble sleeping or getting much done during the day, feel physically sick (like a tension headache or upset stomach), just not feel like our usual selves, or may feel lonely and isolated. These are common ways to feel during major life challenges and after traumatic events, which we sometimes refer to as post-traumatic stress.
Such stress can also occur after losing someone close to us; surviving a nearly fatal illness or injury; or seeing something horrible happen to another person such as a patient or loved one. Many of you have faced this while caring for patients during this pandemic. Healing can and does occur after traumatic events; however, emotional “scars” sometimes remain, similar to physical scars after physical injuries. The scars remind us of a past we’d rather forget. Even so, we learn to live with our scars rather than forgetting the past completely.
Isn’t there something beyond healing and living with our scars? Fortunately, yes! And we call it post-traumatic growth. This can occur alongside stress and healing, but does not replace them. When my daughter was young and ill with cancer in the hospital, I rested my hand on her shoulder to comfort her. I felt something I had never experienced previously, as if a type of therapeutic energy was flowing through me to her. I found this experience very comforting and grounding. I repeated this touch many times during the course of her illness.
The feeling gave me a new perspective on life. The experience was physical (touching), emotional (comforting), and spiritual (connecting with a hard-to-describe, outside source of energy) – all at the same time. I also felt a stronger connection with my daughter. Overall, the experience changed me in a positive way.
Organizations as well as individuals can undergo post-traumatic growth, which involves five general areas: openness to new possibilities, a greater sense of strength, stronger sense of spirituality, deepening relationships, and greater gratitude. Accordingly, we can help Michigan Medicine grow through this pandemic experience by asking questions such as these:1
December 2020 CWO Message (Kirk Brower, MD)
We have been through a lot this year as individuals and teams, and at home and work.
When Michigan Medicine developed its new mission statement in late 2019 and early 2020 – To advance health to serve Michigan and the world – we did not know that we and the rest of the world would be facing a global pandemic. Nevertheless, we understood that what we do here has a purpose and can have a positive effect everywhere. We know that we are all connected. That’s who we are.
Many winter holiday traditions include festivals of light. When the days are short and we are immersed in the winter darkness, we look toward the light. With increasing knowledge and experience about how to treat COVID-19 as well as the near delivery of effective vaccines, many of us can see the light at the end of a much too long tunnel.
In the meantime, we reach deep within for continued courage, perseverance, hope, and compassion for ourselves and others. And we seek comfort with loved ones, personal friends and work friends, and knowing that we are making a difference in people’s lives.
We also want our leaders to listen, respond, and support our well-being. The Wellness Office has provided a brief 1-page Well-Being Check-In Guide that leaders of all levels can use to check in with faculty, staff, and learners about their well-being, in-person or remotely.
As this year ends, let us accept and reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve endured, as well as on the positive impact we make in our patients’ lives and each other’s lives every day. Finally, let’s look forward to the promise of a lighter and brighter New Year.
October 2020 CWO Message (Kirk Brower, MD)
As we face our national election, many of us are feeling anxiety, anger, or a mixture of both. We can experience these feelings no matter where we stand on the political spectrum. The reality of elections is that there are winners and losers. Therefore, many people on one side or the other will be greatly disappointed.
We are frequently bombarded with negativity when we tune into the news on television, radio, or in print. The news media tends to focus more on what divides us than unites us. Such overexposure to negativity works against our well-being. We can consider limiting our exposure.
At Michigan Medicine, we are united by our common mission and values. Our Mission is “To advance health to serve Michigan and the world.” This is a very inclusive statement, because the world includes everyone. In addition, our first core value is Caring: “I will treat everyone with dignity, kindness and respect, promoting the well-being of self and others.” Here we are clearly saying that our individual and workplace well-being depends on how well we treat one another. Only by being well and working well can we optimally care for our patients and each other.
The Wellness Office is committed to making our workplace safe to speak up for safety for our patients, ourselves, and each other. We strive to work in a safe environment where all voices can be heard. Our voices will be heard when we have inclusive conversations rather than divisive arguments. We will know we are using our best voices when what we say to each other is true, kind, and helpful. Let’s use our voices well to support one another during these trying times including the election and beyond.
September 2020 CWO Message (Kirk Brower, MD)
Fall is here and COVID-19 continues to impact and challenge us. Even as cases in the hospital have diminished, we live with uncertainty and cannot predict when another surge may come or when the pandemic will end.
We are facing the challenges and uncertainties of balancing work, family care and virtual learning with the new academic school year, and unsure what the winter months will bring with sudden changes or feelings of isolation. We reach out to leaders, supervisors, and managers for acknowledgment, understanding, and support. And we reach into ourselves for hope, courage and acceptance, so we may persist despite our fears and losses.
The challenges of the pandemic prompted the Wellness Office to conduct a survey of our well-being and stress related to the pandemic. It revealed that many of us are experiencing burnout, stress and anxiety more than ever before. While not a surprise, the findings enabled us to amplify your voices in a town hall and to work with executive leadership to find solutions.
As a result, we’ve participated in the Family Care Task Force, the Anti-Racism Oversight Committee, and several emotional health initiatives to increase access to care. We’ve also recently funded eight pilot projects submitted by our Wellness Advocates, so we can learn if their proposed solutions will work to enhance our well-being.
In these ways and more, we are here for you and trust you to help us find solutions.
June 2020 CWO Message (Kirk Brower, MD)
"More than ever, we can all join together to recognize racism, in all of its forms, in the world at large and here at home. At a recent Michigan Medicine Town Hall, I said, 'When I look in the mirror, I see an old white man of privilege.' That was a first step. However, I’m embarrassed to say that the word, anti-racist, was mostly unknown to me then. I have much to learn.
As your Chief Wellness Officer, I am committed to doing that work. My job is to promote and sustain your workplace well-being. Racism erodes our workplace environment and causes people to feel unsafe, chronically stressed and under-valued. The energy required to defend against stress undermines our well-being. No one is safe – including our patients – unless we all feel safe to be our full selves regardless of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, and religion. The Wellness Office is committed to ensuring an environment where everyone feels safe and valued as a foundation of our well-being."
March 2020 CWO Message (Kirk Brower, MD)
"I am honored to be the inaugural faculty director of the Michigan Medicine Wellness Office. Our goal is to improve the quality and experience of work life for all faculty, staff, and learners at Michigan Medicine. We are committed to developing and sustaining a workplace where respecting, valuing, and caring for each other are essential core values and daily practices. We cannot achieve our goal without all of you. We welcome your ideas and suggestions for improving our workplace as we develop and grow as individuals and members of our work teams.
The launching of our website coincides with the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the Michigan Medicine Wellness Office has coordinated with the key partners listed below to develop this site as a centralized place for well-being resources during this crisis. "