Wellness Advocate Spotlight

Members of our Wellness Advocate Network are invited to create a Spotlight profile to highlight their passion for workplace well-being and share some of their best practices for improving workplace well-being for Faculty, Staff and Learners at Michigan Medicine. Each Advocate profile will be 'in the spotlight' for two months, so check back regularly to meet all of our Wellness Advocates and learn about the important work they are doing.

Denise Williams, Ph.D., MS, HRM-SCP, SPHR
Michigan Medicine Human Resources

Why are you passionate about wellness?

I have devoted my professional training and career to fostering well-being in the workplace, with an emphasis on the healthcare environment. My professional purpose is to do whatever is in my power to alleviate worker suffering, which takes many forms. I am fulfilled by contributing to helping healthcare workplaces to be more affirming and supportive of our incredible workforce’s wisdom, dedication, compassion, and unparalleled expertise. Our healthcare workers nobly and selflessly devote themselves to fostering others’ wellness, and I seek to do whatever I can to promote theirs by focusing on improving their professional experience at all levels.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently? What three books would we find on your bookshelf at home?

As an unabashed “organizational development geek” nearly all my books focus on this topic in one way or another. The best book I have read recently is Dr. Kim Cameron’s newest work, “Positively Energizing Leadership: Virtuous Actions and Relationships That Create High Performance”— Kim has an inspiring approach to addressing entrenched and complex problems we face in health care and provides hope for the future. Other books that have been highly influential to my continuously evolving consulting philosophy are Navigating Polarities: Using Both/And Thinking to Lead Transformation by Brian Emerson and Kelly Lewis, and The Economics of Higher Purpose: Eight Counterintuitive Steps for Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization by Robert Quinn and Anjan Thakor.

Who are your role models or mentors? Biggest influence?

I have been so fortunate to have many role models and mentors throughout my career. The greatest influence on my organizational effectiveness practice has been the faculty of the Ross School of Business’ Center for Positive Organizations (CPO.) For years, their teachings have centered and guided me in my work and my membership in the Ross CPO Consortium has been invaluable. I am also influenced by many great researchers in the field of “Dialogic Organizational Effectiveness” who hold that transformations in work experience are best achieved through creating “containers” for open, inclusive, and authentic dialogue about the challenges of everyday work life. Daily, I am inspired by our entire workforce! I am also particularly inspired by all the wonderful Wellness Advocates and their tireless work to improve the culture of our organization in service of each other and those we serve. Thank you for all you do!

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

I believe the most critical leadership characteristic is compassionate self-awareness of one’s role as a leader. Leaders often underestimate the impact of their words and deeds (or lack thereof) affect the daily work life of those who report to them, and this impact ripples into personal and family lives as well. It is both a blessing and a burden to be so influential for others around you as a leader. To me, effective leadership entails honestly and humbly looking at one’s strengths and growth opportunities, and this can only occur when the leader is able to be compassionate with themselves first and foremost. When leaders are self-compassionate, they become less defensive, more open to growth and new ideas, and more willing to share resources, knowledge, risk and reward with those around them.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

I found the advice given by Patrick Lencioni in his book The Motive to be especially powerful. Pat challenges us to consider our motive for becoming a leader—are we a “reward-centered” leader or a “responsibility-centered” leader? A reward-centered leader believes that becoming a leader is the reward for their own hard work, and their own experience is at the center of their leadership actions. A responsibility-centered leader believes that becoming a leader is a responsibility, and their experience is not without elements of personal gratification but focused on their accountability to not only do what must be done for the greater good but to do what nobody else will do. This is a difficult issue to think about, but one I think is important for those considering or entering leadership.

If you could pick one current challenge to address related to workplace well-being at Michigan Medicine, what would it be and why?

Given the tremendous level of physical, emotional, and mental suffering being experienced by the entire Michigan Medicine workforce in a myriad of ways, our challenge moving forward is to commit to the challenging yet ultimately rewarding work of moving beyond talk to action on the topic of workplace wellbeing. So many great things are being done, but significantly changing the foundations of our culture will require a large-scale, positively disruptive collective behavior change that addresses root systemic issues and competing reward structures that drive results in complex organizations such as ours. The solutions cannot be sought by a few individuals but will require the “wisdom of the crowd”—and we must figure out how to unleash that wisdom.

Previous Advocate Spotlights

Ruby Marr, MD
Internal Medicine Clinical Instructor & Wellness Advocate

October & November

Why are you passionate about wellness?

I went into Medicine because taking care of others brings joy and fulfillment to my life. I am passionate about well-being because at the heart of this work are joy and fulfillment. Also, maintaining our well-being allows us to experience the best of what this calling has to offer. When the work tips to a point where we providers are so burdened that depersonalization creeps in, we have robbed both providers and patients of the best Medicine has to offer. We must preserve the integrity of the provider/patient relationship and the gratification of this calling.

What are some things you are doing or have done to promote/improve/encourage wellness in your department?

The current project I am working on in conjunction with my IMPOWER Council partner Carla Vorndran is on creating space for meaningful time away, attempting to understand what factors impact faculty and staff’s ability to detach from work when they are off the clock. 24% of focus group responses delineating what detracts from meaningful time away are related to email: away messaging, response expectations, volume, content, etc. We are currently collating and prioritizing interventions with representatives from all job families and leadership within the Division of Hospital Medicine and hope to roll out an email intervention package soon.

In addition, I champion the COMPASS Peer-to-Peer Support program, where providers can share challenging experiences both in and out of the workplace with a safe colleague who has been trained to provide evidence-based support. Every one of us has felt disappointment, fear, and uncertainty. Creating a space to communicate our shared experiences allows us all to thrive despite the challenges we face.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the family my husband James Marr I have built. The knowledge I gained in pursuing well-being has not only contributed to my resilience and happiness, but also allowed me to coach my girls, Sofia 9, and Bella 7, on how to celebrate joy and success daily. They are learning to let go of situations they cannot control and harness their agency in situations they can influence. Nothing brings me greater happiness than seeing this.

What questions are you asking yourself lately?

I am trying to grow as a leader and understand what makes a great leader. I am currently reading Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, and they suggest that clarity is critical in creating change. This includes the clarity in the desired outcome, a clear timeframe, with distinct guardrails around how that outcome should be achieved. I find myself asking, “have I provided this clarity to effect change?”. While I find myself energetic and hopeful, I wonder how much more I could have accomplished in advancing well-being and DEI in the workplace with more clarity.

How do you foster a collaborative, psychologically safe environment for your team?

Psychological safety is fostered by sharing both your individual strengths and weakness, giving praise when it is due, and most importantly being transparent and open when you have mis stepped. Allowing diverse individuals in a team to share their unique skills while recognizing their blind spots and facilitating collaboration, is what achieves the diversity bonus. My role is in setting that tone, acknowledging and sharing my imperfections while championing those who can fill the gaps I hold.

When times get tough, how do you inspire those around you?

Inspiration comes from connecting to a larger purpose. When I feel inundated, I slow down first to then be able to speed up. I slow down to reconnect to my “why” and share my “why” with those around me. I try to understand their “whys”. Once we have reconnected with our higher purpose, we can frame the work within this context and then speed up our endeavor.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Vulnerability. Without acknowledging our weaknesses, we cannot grow or strengthen our teams.

As a leader, how can you ensure that workplace well-being is sustained as a core value and daily practice?

Leadership rounds are imperative in understanding how well-being interplays with the workload. Taking time to be boots on the ground, and to take an inventory of what barriers exist in achieving work-life balance is imperative to not only be an exemplary leader but also to build sustainable wellbeing interventions.

What advice would you give to someone interested in improving workplace well-being?

Find like-minded people to partner with in this work. Take time to express your frustrations, but always recenter on your larger purpose of this work. Make sure to have fun too!

Jayson Greenberg, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor, Otolaryngology & Wellness Advocate

July & August

Why are you passionate about wellness?

I am passionate about wellness because I have been burned out and unwell. I dreaded going to work. I’m not sure if my patients could sense it, but my family did. I felt all alone during that time. I felt like no one in the health system cared about my well-being. I suffered adverse health effects and ultimately left the position I was in. Working in health care is gratifying but demanding, and the demands are ever-increasing. We are trained to work hard, to selflessly help others, and always be available. Being passionate about wellness means teaching ourselves to put our own oxygen mask on first and not being afraid to ask others for help. If we are not well, how can we provide the best possible care for our patients?

What 3 books would we find on your bookshelf at home?

Three books that will forever be on my bookshelf are: The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma, You are a Badass by Jen Sincero, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. These books have all had a profound influence on me. They have taught me the importance of self-reflection and self-improvement, to always believe in yourself, and to not always take things so seriously.

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?/What are you most proud of?

This biggest risk and what I am most proud of will always be linked together. Four years ago, I switched to Michigan Medicine. Change has always been hard for me. My father used to tell me, “The only thing that is permanent is change.” I never liked when he said it, but I knew he was right. After 16 years in private practice, I recognized it was time for a change. The practice model and the pace I was on was not sustainable. I took a pay decrease and became the lowest seniority faculty member at age 48. Two months after I started, I would be on the OR table for a quintuple coronary bypass. I learned I needed to listen to my body if I wasn’t feeling right. I learned I needed to speak up for myself and ask for help when I needed it. I am proud of overcoming these challenges and the risks involved. I am proud of sharing my story with others to inspire them and let them know they are not alone.

What strategies do you use to mitigate burnout for yourself, and your team?

I am a big proponent of gratitude. I write in my gratitude journal every morning. It helps me stay grounded, positive, and focused. No matter how bad the day is, there are always things to be grateful for. Laughter is another powerful burnout buster. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a smile and a good laugh. For my team, I try to set an example of hard work, positivity, and open communication. Your team members need to know everyone is working toward a common goal. They need to know you care and will take the time to genuinely listen.

What has been your most powerful learning experience in your career?

Despite best efforts and intentions, you will not be able to help every patient. Not every patient will like you. Focus on the ones you can help. Complications will happen. I had a catastrophic complication early in my career, which still affects me to this day. Complications are not necessarily failures. They do not mean you are a bad person or a bad physician. No matter how big or small, complications still need to be acknowledged, analyzed, and learned from.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

We may choose different wellness paths and options, but it is very hard to be balanced and well by yourself. Whether it is family, friends, or work, it is critical to surround yourself with a supportive and compassionate group of people.

Read more about Dr. Jayson Greenberg here.

Nicole Figueroa, MSN, RN, AHN-BC

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), Resilience and Wellbeing Nurse Leader & Wellness Advocate

May & June 2022

Why are you passionate about wellness?

I feel as healthcare workers and myself as a nurse that we are so giving of ourselves. We enter our profession to serve others, and so often we do not learn the skills on how to truly shift the focus back to ourselves. At times it is even uncomfortable to think through how we will be well and focus on our own wellness and wellbeing because we are externally focused. I have such passion to help other health care providers learn to shift the focus back to themselves and build better capacity to focus on their own wellbeing.

What are some things you are doing or have done to promote/improve/encourage wellness in your department?

I entered into my role two days after the RICU opened and we began our hard work in the first wave of the pandemic. With starting this role during such a destabilizing time, I spent the majority of my time helping create responsive models to support our health care teams. I was part of a team that created our Stress Resource Team. In particular I helped the team deployed to round on our inpatient units to provide psychological/stress first aid to our members. More recently, I focused on creating systematic ways to implement best practices into the work we do each and every day based on theoretical principles like stress first aid. Of note, our team will be publishing the outcomes of a pilot called MINDBODYSTRONG which is a CBT based intervention for bedside nurses, nurse leaders and nursing school faculty. Lastly, we are creating a deep dive rounding tool for leaders based on stress first aid and collating data on where their team is on the stress continuum. This helps inform us on what stress injuries/impacts they are experiencing on their units and supports specific interventions based on the impacts they are having in their areas.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

I would say that moving out of Kentucky and away from my family and support system when I was 20 years old. I was a young (headstrong) person who wanted to experience new things. I was also just coming out of the closet and was in a space in my life where I needed to grow into the person I hoped to be without the social pressures that come with being an out queer person in the south. I started nursing school and the University of Detroit Mercy, found the Gay Straight Alliance the second week there and began to form deep relationships with others and got to know myself fully through that journey and move. I have some of the strongest friendships because of that risk/move and feel like I am the person I am today, have a wonderful relationship with my family back home, and feel grounded in being an out queer professional now with a family of my own. These things may not have been able to be true without the move, and community I found in Michigan.

What are you most passionate about outside of work?

My passions have shifted over the last year, as I gave birth to my first child with my wife. Asher is my new passion, watching him learn and grow has been one of the most humbling yet awe inspiring experiences. Each day is full of new learnings, surprises, and challenges. But watching a new life experience the wonders of life has forced me to slow down, find wonder in the mundane and awe/joy in the smallest item, like how exciting a fan is, particularly when it is on.

When times get tough, how do you inspire those around you?

One of my signature strengths is perseverance. I have always seen obstacles as part of the process of learning, growing and in the LEAN mentality a great opportunity to see the tough time as a great PDCA cycle. So, when times get tough, I often like to ground the team in the meaning of the work we are doing. Why do we do this work, this project? What successes have we had thus far? Along with honoring the feelings of frustration, angst, irritability, and all other emotions that come up when things get tough. Deeply listening to the struggles is an important part of inspiring in my viewpoint because if we don’t acknowledge the struggle, we cant savor the success. Focus on meaning, listen deeply to struggle, and provide realistic hope for the collective future we are working towards. That’s my mantra.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

This is a very hard question as there are a few characteristics that every leader should possess, but I think that ability to be self-reflective/self-aware is one of the most important parts of being a leader. Knowing yourself first and foremost is one of the most important skills to develop as a leader, knowing what causes you shut down, to judge, to be creative, to inspire others is so very important. Leaders that cannot reflect on areas they need to improve on or cannot acknowledge their areas of growth authentically cannot lead innovative, psychologically safe teams. Also, leaders who are self-aware/reflective can see when they need to shift change how they are approaching a team to help the team be successful. As a leader, our role is to truly make the teams we lead shine, their success is our success, and through our own awareness of self we seek to become better people, better leaders, and honor the humanity in ourselves and others.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I hope that our journey through this pandemic offers an opening for us to completely re-envision how we take care of the healers. The systems we work within have not focused on how we take care of those who take care of others. I hope that we can take this moment to pause and really create systems that understand through putting our healthcare workers wellbeing first, we will then truly meet all our quality and safety measures. We will never be the same after this pandemic, so we need to shift and change to assure that we are truly honoring and taking care of those who choose these powerful and beautiful roles in which we take care of others.

Deirdre Conroy, PhD

Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Clinical Director, Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic Wellness Advocate

February & March 2022

What are some things you are doing or have done to promote/improve/encourage wellness in your department?

During this time of social isolation, I promote wellness in Psychiatry through a range of social events to foster connection and new experiences. With the assistance of our Marketing & Communications Supervisor Kat Bergman, we arranged several COVID-safe in-person outings throughout the Ann Arbor area. The first event included a tour of The Hands outdoor sculpture at the University of Michigan Museum of Art. For the next event, we partnered with The Nature Area Protection in a local park to clear out invasive species. Recently we met at The Penny Stamps Art Gallery in Ann Arbor to see the exhibit called “On Love and Data.” In addition to exploring art, we were fortunate to host Dr. Pat Rockwell from the University of Toronto. She presented on Mindfulness in Healthcare Workers. I’ve also created a blog for the department called Welcome Wellness where I share tips, tricks, and strategies for improving wellness. Looking ahead to 2022, my goal is to continue to listen and address faculty and staff needs through department surveys and listening tours. I hope to encourage a balance between home and work, even as the physical boundaries of these spaces have disappeared for some in our new hybrid lifestyles. I also hope to establish a support structure to enrich a positive culture and reduce burnout.

What three books would we find on your bookshelf at home?

The books that are on my bookshelf currently include: How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith, Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, and Fierce Self Compassion: How Women Can Harness Kindness to Speak up, Claim Their Power and Thrive by Kristen Neff, PhD.

What are you most passionate about outside of work?

I am passionate about animal welfare, equal rights, racial justice, and LGBTQ advocacy. My passion for animal welfare ranges from feeding cats in Detroit to dehorning rhinos in South Africa to caring for rescued exotic pets in a sanctuary in Costa Rica. I’m also committed to antiracist efforts including ongoing self-education and seminars.

What strategies do you use to mitigate burnout for yourself and your team?

I’ve learned to become an advocate of boundaries and balance over the years. We are often taught in school and training programs that there is no end to the day. The mentality is that we should always be studying, learning, and producing and that we should feel badly if we are not. It’s considered a badge of honor to be overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, and moody. I’ve learned through my own personal experiences and through my patient’s stories that this is not a sustainable strategy. As a clinical sleep psychologist in Psychiatry, I speak with so many patients who are suffering from chronic medical and mental health conditions. In many cases, these individuals were once overachievers, caretakers, and in charge of many people until one day this lifestyle caught up to them. Sleepless nights, chronic pain, gastrointestinal problems, depression, and anxiety evolved and took their toll. I now adopt and promote prevention as a strategy. I suggest strategies like turning off the laptop in the evening and allowing time for other activities that one enjoys e.g. exercise, socializing, cooking, etc. I prescribe fun and play as these activities might be better for your health than finishing that last item on the to-do list.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

I couldn’t decide on just one so I believe in the following: listening, respecting others, being transparent, reading the “room” (or “zoom”), and asking questions.

If you could pick one current challenge to address related to workplace well-being at Michigan Medicine, what would it be and why?

A persistent challenge to workplace well-being at Michigan Medicine (MM) is gender inequalities at various levels of leadership and opportunities for females in their respective disciplines. We’ve seen in the last two years that women in medicine are leaving the profession at high rates. Sexual harassment, racism, and other forms of harassment (bullying, minimizing) go unreported in academia for years. MM has supported safe workspaces and faculty wellness, as evidenced by the formation of this Wellness Office and participation in Times up an organization to focus on safe and fair workplaces.

To address these difficult issues, we may need to change the way we communicate and the culture of our workspaces. MM does a wonderful job of ensuring that faculty and staff stay on track with the use of annual performance reviews, promotion benchmarks, and clinical targets. However, behind the scenes, females in healthcare may be struggling with a variety of unspoken barriers such as inadequate mentorship, feeling minimized, or even being bullied. As a result, talented faculty and staff members may leave MM without us understanding the real reasons for their departure. Gender-based harassment in healthcare has been written about recently in this article entitled “The gender harassment we experienced sank our medical careers,” “Misogyny in Medicine”, and in a documentary “Picture a Scientist” which follows the lives and experiences of women in medicine. These highlights the iceberg of negative experiences women experience in science and other related fields.

My vision would be to develop more support for “Career Wellness” i.e. a specific wellness mentoring program that combines aspects of career success (a.k.a promotion benchmarks) with a highly confidential frank discussion about often unspoken pitfalls of being in academia ranging from discrimination, to not feeling one has a seat at the table, parenting/family demands, overt sexual attention/comments, etc. If we do not create safe spaces for women to share in a confidential risk-free (and retribution free) conversation, I feel burnout and turnover of female faculty and staff may be an ongoing challenge related to workplace well-being at MM.

Michele Carney, MD

Clinical Assistant Professor, Pediatric Emergency Medicine Specialties: Emergency Medicine, Pediatric Emergency, Wellness Advocate

November & December 2021

Why are you passionate about wellness?

To provide great care to our patients we must stay well. Watching my colleagues give of themselves to their patients and our work inspired me to look for wellness resources and ways we can mitigate burnout. This is our opportunity to lean on each other for support and care.

What are some things you are doing or have done to promote/improve/encourage wellness in your department?

  1. One of my adult Emergency Department (ED) colleagues and I thought it was important for the department to share wellness resources between all members of our department. With the permission of our Chair, we developed a Departmental Wellness Committee. This committee has representation from many different job families, pharmacy, nursing, clerks, child life, social work, admins, etc. We talk about wellness interventions that would benefit all staff in the ED and ways to implement those strategies. So far, we have shared resources from the wellness site. When staff receive an email from one of their colleagues, they are more apt to read it. We are currently in the process of developing an Award program for faculty and staff while on shift to recognize their great patient care/service.

  2. The emergency department is stressful and chaotic. We have been talking about implementing a reset button for our providers. We would do this by having volunteers in the department hand out water, candy, etc. while interacting with providers to remind them they are appreciated and doing a great job.

  3. In my division, pediatric emergency medicine, my division chief is very supportive of wellness. We have implemented kudos and a “Getting to know you” 10-minute presentation given by one faculty or fellow per month, which is the highlight of our meeting.

  4. We have debriefing sessions after difficult cases in real-time in our department for all job families involved.

Would you like to share a personal story you’ve experienced with workplace wellness or burnout?

Several years ago, I made a diagnostic error that had a poor outcome. I was at a crossroads in my career. I either needed to overcome the fear of making another mistake and causing harm and see the good that I have done in my career, or I needed to change my occupation. Slowly and with the help of my family and friends, I started to overcome my fear and see the joy again in my profession. I know what it is like to be unwell, and I hope to help others when they face tough work situations.

What are you most proud of?

Aside from the compassionate girls my husband and I are raising, I am most proud of the PEM fellowship run with the help of my APD. I currently have engaged fellows who strive to be excellent physicians. They are team players and an integral part of our division.

What are you most passionate about outside of work?

Pushing myself to new levels on my bike; both indoor and outdoor. I am a competitive person and like to see what I can accomplish when I set my mind to it. Also, I ride for Make a Wish with some amazing bikers, so I need to make sure to stay strong.

Describe some of your leadership principles that have contributed to your success.

I try to emulate Positive Leadership strategies. I genuinely care for the people I lead, and they know it. They also know that I am not always correct, and I make mistakes. I own them, apologize, and move forward. That is an essential quality of a leader.

What advice would you give others?

Don’t worry about what others think of your suggestions and interventions. Some will think they aren’t worth their time and will have no trouble letting you know. Try to let that go and move forward. Don’t set your sights on helping everyone, just help someone. And give it time, don’t declare something a failure until you do it a few times. Some won’t act engaged until they decide to participate.

Michael Brenner, MD

Associate Professor, Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck & Wellness Advocate

September & October 2021

Why are you passionate about wellness?

The past year has brought great change for all of us, and for me personally it has afforded an opportunity to turn over a new leaf as I think about what it means to be a part of a larger community that requires well-being and resilience to succeed in the long haul. Reflecting on my early years of training, just before the advent of the 80-hour work week, I realize how deeply I was steeped in a culture that extolled the heroic attributes of self-sacrifice, individualism, and stoic endurance – all with a comparative disregard for care of oneself or surrounding community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, narratives that embrace clinician heroism – of clinicians of all types – have been a prominent and recurring theme, reinforcing my early career experiences; but what has become evident is that the disregard of personal well-being in service to others is not sustainable.

A key epiphany for me was that teamwork and acknowledgement of our shared humanity is more important because the heroic paradigm predisposes to burnout and is at cross-purposes with the imperative for team-based problem-solving, which is the essence of team-based care. I also discovered a subtle irony – that when clinicians are willing to make excessive personal sacrifices to address system shortcomings, the leadership is more likely to leave broken or dysfunctional systems in place. Through the lens of my interests in safety and quality, I realized that working in overdrive is self-defeating, and working alone in isolation is much less rewarding. Increasingly, I’ve engaged in paper sprints, collaborative endeavors, and partnerships with people both younger and older to broaden my own thinking. I’ve also become more purposeful in enhancing the diversity of my partnerships and networks.

What are some things you are doing or have done to promote/improve/encourage wellness in your department?

Some of the things that I am doing that promote wellness in individual and in the medical school and department are practicing gratitude and learning about experiences outside my own daily activities. Being grateful for good fortune brings far more happiness than feeling like we earned all that we enjoy. Although pride in accomplishments is appropriate and positive, we should also count our blessing with an acknowledgement of serendipity – that by luck we enjoy many opportunities. I have found it deeply rewarding to dive into the literature on diversity, equity, and inclusion – immersing myself in learning opportunities available through books, literature, webinars, and cultural humility dialogues. Some of the books that have opened my eyes are Just Mercy, Caste—the Origins of Our Discontents, The Warmth of Other Suns, White Fragility, and Born a Crime.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the people who enrich my life. Foremost among these are my wife and wonderful children, who have been an inspiration through their ability to find joy even in challenging times. They fill my tank and challenge me to be better at what I do and in the example that I set. We have all grown together through shared conversations, cultivating new talents in music, writing, sports, or cooking. Some of the hobbies that have been joys are hiking through the great national parks of Utah, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. We have also discovered a greater connection across countries and continents as the challenges introduced by the pandemic have made the world a smaller place.

Who are your role models or mentors? Biggest influence?

I am grateful for so many great mentors and colleagues, who have helped me to not only tap latent potential but also encouraged me to discover how to balance a fulfilling professional existence with the enjoyment of living in the moment. They have opened doors and showed me how to look at problems from new angles. Some of these individuals reside in my own specialty, like my chair Dr. Prince or our former chair and Academic Dean, Dr. Carol Bradford, who is now Dean of Ohio State but continues to find time to collaborate and support my growth. Others are colleagues in partnering fields, such as critical care, nursing, speech language pathology, anesthesiology, and any number of areas.

Describe some of your leadership principles that have contributed to your success.

The leadership principles that have served me best derive from a mix of eclectic role models who I admire, ranging from Nelson Mandela to Abraham Lincoln to Mahatma Gandhi to Ray Dalio to leaders within our own department, beginning with our chair, Dr. Prince who has set an agenda around civility, accountability, inclusion, and engagement. Taking a composite of these individuals, I’ve learned that the best way to lead is from behind and as if one has no authority – because even with a title what drives people to action is not a role of authority but igniting passion and a sense of common cause. I’ve come to realize that we should, as Lincoln suggests we should appeal to the better angels of our nature. I have seldom regretted assuming the best of intention and character.

People will more often surprise to the upside if only afforded the opportunity, and everyone brings something of value through their voice and their experience.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

The character that I believe every leader should possess is integrity – in the broadest sense. By this I mean that one should have not only high moral character but also be whole and balanced. Integrity is demonstrated through action – behaving honorably, even when no one is watching. People with integrity have a moral compass that points true north and apply these ethical principles in all aspects of everyday life in work and in personal life. Integrity applies to a vast array of professional areas at work, including how one undertakes decision making, interacting with colleagues, and caring for patients. It entails being dependable and following through on commitments; being open and honest when communicating with other people; and holding oneself accountable and owning up to your shortcomings or mistakes. It also is about being generous, humble, and always eager to learn.

What do you do to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

A key aspect of professional growth is recognizing that technical mastery and knowledge, which are foundational to developing a professional career, are not all that is needed. One also needs to incorporate skills in interpersonal communication, teamwork, and collaboration. I like the book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, because it reveals how many individuals who are exceptionally successful in early career hit a ceiling and go no further if they cannot learn to harness the collective intelligence of a group through building others up and working with them constructively to achieve teamwork. Cultivating a high-performing team requires cultivating emotional intelligence, which encompasses self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management. A few sub-areas that are particularly interesting to me, personally, are the cultivation of self-regulation – which allows for self-governance in times of stress or unrest; a sense of empathy that allows for connection; and a readiness to rise to the occasion as a catalyst for change when the moment calls for it.

What advice would you give to someone interested in improving workplace well-being?

My advice to someone interested in improving workplace well-being is to be curious – about people, about your work, about the world around you. An infinite number of possibilities and opportunities surface when one looks closely and begins to see what is hidden in plain sight. To continue to grow, one must have a voracious appetite for learning. If you do not bring a sense of wonder of curiosity, how can you be genuinely interested in learning from others? This curiosity is closely linked to caring and investment in others. This connection affords great protection against the stress of everyday work and the risk of burnout. It also provides an avenue for findings shared interests and activities. People differ greatly in what supports workplace wellness, but a shared observation is that the quality of relationships with coworkers and having something to look forward to each day do much to reinvigorate joy in work. Regard each day as a page of your life that is yet unwritten and can be filled with anything you wish to discover, and do not forget the power of perspective, as much good can come from a simple habit of accenting the positive.

Margit Burmeister, PhD

Professor, Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics, & Wellness Advocate

June & July 2021

Why are you passionate about wellness?

As the director of a graduate program of >100 students, I have had my share of experiences with challenges to a student’s well-being. Often, I was the first person to whom they turned with imposter syndrome, stress, anxiety, addictions, depression, relationship problems, home sickness, and many other issues. I learned on the job how to comfort and refer – I’m glad referral is much better organized now. While I am not trained in mental health or wellness, for 30 years I have learned a lot by participation in a “mental health first aid” course, as faculty in psychiatry, and from my husband who is a counselor.

Wellness isn’t only mental health, and intercepts with my life in research as well. As a geneticist, I am getting more interested in bringing what science, especially genetics, can do for people’s health, to the public. Hence, I have been reading and researching diet, exercise, weight control, addiction and where genetics plays a role – and no, genetics is not deterministic – we all can modify effects of our genes. As one of the wellness advocates in psychiatry earlier, we tried to increase incentives for healthy eating and exercise opportunities on the job. I have already participated in ActiveU and hope the incentives to fitness participation will return soon.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

My relationship with my husband of nearly 10 years is unusual at many levels - trans-generational (he is much younger), cross-cultural (German-American vs Chinese), across religions (Jewish- Buddhist) and very different professions. Such differences make a relationship difficult and risky, more so than when you can take a lot of common experiences for granted – so taking the risk on marriage in such a relationship was a big risk. It has also been a rewarding adventure and huge learning experience for both of us – helped by the fact that we were both already mature and experienced before taking that jump.

What advice would you have for yourself if you could go back 20 years in your career?

My advice going back 40 years - more relevant than 20 years - is: follow your passion! My grandfather had a PhD as a math and chemistry teacher. I always loved math and did very well, but never knew what it was used for, and math for women was not encouraged 40 years ago. I also liked exploring the human body and science, so I studied undergraduate biochemistry because it felt ‘harder’ than just biology. I

also briefly considered medicine. In Germany one can’t explore, one applies to a major and a school, and a later switch is difficult. If I had known at high school time what I know now, I would have taken more math in high school, and studied math with a minor in biology, or biology with a quantitative focus. If I had acted on my passion, math and genetics, I could have become a statistical geneticist or genetic epidemiologist. By switching to the new Department of Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics about 10 years ago, I did get into quantitative life science a bit anyway.

Describe some of your leadership principles that have contributed to your success:

Start from an assumption that everyone is here to do well. No student, staff or faculty wants to be dishonest, mean or lazy. We are not here to weed out people. So if a student seems lazy or cheats, or a faculty is not doing well with grants, I try to find out what is behind that. There may be a challenges in the student’s life that I am not aware of until asking, or the faculty needs support to blossom.

Don’t let dissatisfaction fester – address it head on once you become aware of it. This can be my own salary – I have twice in my 30 years asked for an equity review that lead to a raise; or it can be a mentor unhappy with a student’s performance. I would advise to address the concerns rather than hope they improve or give up, in a one-on-one or full committee meeting. However, once the problem can’t be solved, it’s better to end earlier rather than later, for the sake of all parties involved.

Study the relevant groups’ opinions before making decisions – it helps defend your choices. This is against the advice of one of my superiors, who kept pushing me to “don’t ask so much, just make a decision based on your best judgment.” I later learned that my style is common in women, the advice I got typical of men in leadership – I hope the more cooperative style will take hold in general.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

If you are being asked for a leadership position at this point, in all likelihood this is not your only chance, so don’t feel pressured to take the first opportunity. Some administrative positions are a lot of work with little reward. Especially women at Associate Professor level can be burned out in work-intensive administrative positions that aren’t really leadership facilitating, and prevent them from moving on to Full Professor and furthering their career. Consider whether the topic or the position have growth potential for you; e.g. if you are Associate Director, could you become Director? Would the position bring you some experience that will allow you to grow into leadership, or would it be much work but not likely to get you further – either promoted or in experience? Thanks to one of my mentors, Huda Akil, who first gave me some aspects of this as advice at the time I needed to hear it.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Although we are all thinking of COVID-19 and the pandemic challenges on wellness, I would like to bring up things that work at Michigan Medicine and were stopped, and others that can be improved. Carrots work so much better than sticks, or treatments after the fact, when a student is already ill.

  • Allow hosting for student activities – they have suffered long enough in the past year

  • Bring back the incentives to exercise – MHealthy incentives and $10 for fitness center etc.

  • For afternoon seminars, require healthy snacks (nuts, fruit) in addition to cookies

  • All meetings should leave a 5-10 min break before the next hour, even if scheduled for 90 min.

  • All official Lunches and Dinners should have healthy and vegetarian options (not just salads) Things that were improved since I came here more than 30 years ago:

  • We now have maternity and paternity leave, for faculty, staff, and students. Yeah!

  • We have several childcare centers near the medical school

  • There are financial incentives to be examined, to exercise, and for various counseling services

Lindsey Bloor, PhD

Clinical Assistant Professor & Wellness Advocate

April & May 2021

What are some things you have done to promote wellness in your department/healthcare system?

During my time at the VA Ann Arbor, I have also worked to build a network of health psychologists integrated into a broader range of services and clinics. As a lead clinician for the network, I have encouraged the other health psychologists to serve as wellness champions within the teams and clinics that they integrate behavioral health services. During the first months of the COVID pandemic, it was this network of health psychologists that offered self-care related support [workshops on mindfulness, grief responses, stress and coping, and health behavior change, setting and achieving “SMART” (specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic, timely)] goals to their own and other clinics that sought this support from our hospital Director.

A personal story / experience of workplace burnout.

I am still processing this as an action I hope that prevents burnout. As a single parent by choice, it became clear during the initial phase of the pandemic, I could not sustain working on-site at the medical center full time. I was advocating for team members so that they could work from home, but found myself on-site sometimes for longer hours, when my son was first at home with virtual school learning. I needed to step away from this leadership role in order to have the ability to do part-time telework and better support my son. I am still adjusting to this balance and exploring further my purpose with family and self-care, while maintaining a role as one of the integrated health psychologists offering in-person as well as virtual care.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud to be a mother and support my son’s development and creativity. Before graduate school in clinical psychology, I dabbled in some creative writing with children’s literature, publishing one short story in a children’s magazine. My son Nolan is much more creative, especially with drawing, and we are working with a book publisher on a collection of short stories and poems. My family has always supported conservation efforts and Nolan is especially interested in vulnerable and endangered animals, most recently pangolins, Komodo dragons, and lowland gorillas. With stepping away from a formal leadership role, I hope to realize one dream to travel with my son and collaborate with projects where there is a synergy between conservation, science, and public health such as the work of Dr. Gladys Kalema Zikusoka in saving the mountain gorillas of East Africa.

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Moving across the country to raise my son in Ann Arbor MI. My parents, brother and sister were in California at the time. The VA hospital I worked at there was not offering integrated behavioral health positions at the time. I had learned about the high-quality education at all levels in Ann Arbor. Yet, I believe much of my decision to move came from a couple of Malcolm Gladwell “Blink” moments in reading about or talking with a friend who attended a conference here.

How do you foster a collaborative, psychologically safe environment for your team?

I believe aligning one’s actions with their spoken words, and follow-up with what is discussed at team meetings is paramount. Many employees describe attending multiple meetings where topics seem to be discussed again and again without follow through or some resolution. The simple act of taking the next step, follow-up to a statement made, or even an acknowledgement, a thank you, that a message was received, can be very powerful in the fast-paced healthcare system. Similarly, a reflection of what a team member has said, indicating you hear them, and you are trying to understand. Being clear on what you can and cannot do as a team member or leader is also crucial. Even when I have not been able to address something directly or help make change, when I have listened and been honest about this, it has garnered trust and psychological safety. It is an ongoing effort to pause and remember each of us are walking around with remarkable stories. The Cleveland Clinic has a 4-minute “Empathy: Exploring Human Connection” video that is a wonderful reminder to slow down, make eye contact and listen. And practice gratitude as often as possible.

How can you ensure that workplace well-being is sustained as a core value and daily practice?

My co-chair and I began to introduce “mindful moments” in our HPDP meetings as a regular practice, and have encouraged other meeting facilitators to do something similar. More broadly, having crucial conversations across work groups so that we are all looking for ways to find synergy between hospital directives and initiatives. Most hospital initiatives and directives have patient-centered care, diversity and equity, and employee wellness as core values. Effectiveness is strengthened if we focus more on why we do something, and not get too distracted by what and how we do something. Speaking up at meetings as well as those “elevator conversations”; having talking points or a personal story ready to share. With psychology trainees, I always strive to incorporate diversity and equity values in supervision as well as explore what a balance between wellness and professional development really means. Psychology interns and postdoctoral fellows are transitioning from graduate school to their future, and it is inevitable that they are looking for a sounding board to discuss work-life balance, choices about where and how they live, relationships and parenting.

One more thing I’d like to share.

As a practice of gratitude and synergy of goals, my son and I found art teachers at his and one other middle school at the beginning of the pandemic. Practicing safety precautions, we donated and brought art materials to students’ homes who wanted to participate. They created “Thank You” posters that are displayed around the VA Medical Center.

Dori Barr, CMA (AAMA)

Medical Assistant Program Manager & Wellness Advocate

February & March 2021

Why are you passionate about wellness?

I believe we all thrive better in a culture of wellness. By surrounding ourselves with people who also embrace wellness we can create a positive change in workplace culture for ourselves and for others.

What are some things you are doing or have done to promote/improve/encourage wellness in your department?

I incorporate information about wellness into our staff meetings, in my one-on-one conversations and in conversations with those who are not in my department. I find that people tend to think only of physical health when talking about wellness, so I encourage them to seek more information.

Would you like to share a personal story you've experienced with workplace wellness or burnout?

I have noticed a change in our workplace conversations. We used to seek comfort in discussing of workplace solutions but over the last year those discussions have changed to discussing exhaustion and burnout. People stating that they are working harder than ever, longer hours, more responsibilities and we are now seeking comfort in knowing we are not alone. I see burnout daily in my staff and peers. They are struggling with children at home doing virtual learning, daycares closed, and the loss of loved ones. Some have their households operating like never before and when they leave work the demands do not end. There was no way that anyone could have prepared for this.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my children, Kaloni Rae and Douglas Dale. I have experienced so much joy watching them navigate through life, including love and loss, college, marriage and parenting. They have experienced loss with grace, dignity and have made me reflect on my parenting role, as we all know there are no beacons or buoys to navigate between. As parents we just have to hope we made the right decisions and sit back and watch them make mistakes as part of the learning process.

Who are your role models or mentors?

There are several people who have served as a role model or mentor throughout my life. I try to surround myself with positive people who are strong in their personal and professional path and it would be difficult to pick just one. I had the best place to start when I came to Michigan Medicine as a Medical Assistant Extern and was placed at Dexter Health Center in 2002. The physicians there are absolutely wonderful, expressed patience in explaining procedures and always took the time to answer any questions. They were always approachable and played a strong part in my professional growth. I learned so much from that group and will forever be grateful.

My biggest influence is my mother. She raised seven children while my dad worked in manufacturing. She made sure we gave thanks, remembered our manners, and taught us to always treat others with respect. She was hard-working and very dedicated to her family. I grew up in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan; it did not matter how much snow was piled up. If we needed groceries, she went. I think one of the biggest influences she had on me was making sure that you tell those you love that you love them, be kind, give affirmations and to pay it forward.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Dropping out of Nursing school. It was huge career move that led to many successes, I have no regrets and am thankful that I was able to recognize my path early on. I appreciate the roles and responsibilities that nurses have and am proud to have so many interactions with nursing staff at Michigan Medicine. I knew early on that I wanted to work in health care and was steered into nursing by family members, but it was not for me.

What are you most passionate about outside of work?

Family, I have a granddaughter Haven Rae who is 2 and another granddaughter on the way in July. I am so excited to watch them grow.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

The ability to lead from the back and support employee growth and education.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Speak less, listen more. Take the time to get to know the people you lead and learn from them. If a decision does not seem easy then maybe you should take the time to give it consideration. Sleep on it. Hear all sides before forming an opinion.

If you could pick one current challenge to address related to workplace well-being at Michigan Medicine, what would it be and why?

One current challenge I have witnessed is the stigma surrounding wellness in the workplace. I have spoken to so many colleagues who are experiencing burnout, fatigue, etc. However, they feel it shows weakness and are afraid to discuss their experience. They only share when I lay the path and create a comfort zone where they feel safe. Addressing the stigma and making people feel safe is essential to improving workplace well-being at Michigan Medicine.

Anita Amin, MD

Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine & Wellness Advocate

November & December 2020

Why are you passionate about wellness?

I am passionate about wellness because I know how important wellness can be, especially for physicians. In my 9 years working as a hospitalist (post-residency), I have had multiple colleagues leave clinical medicine because they were too burned out to continue practicing. These were excellent physicians who spent years in medical school, residency and then clinical practice. As I started to feel burned out from hospital medicine, I decided I wanted to do something to help both myself and my fellow physicians.

What are some things you are doing or have done to promote/ improve/encourage wellness in your department?

Since its inception in December of 2018, I have been one of the co-leads of the Division of Hospital Medicine’s Wellness Committee. In the two years since our committee formed, we have had various initiatives including creating a spotlight on various faculty/staff, started a wellness lecture series, created a toolkit for faculty/staff to help navigate various leave (parental, medical, etc.) policies within the University, and since the COVID pandemic, one of our members has hosted a “community check-in” on various topics including COVID related work stressors, childcare, and DEI topics.

In September 2019, I participated in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wellbeing and Resilience program offered by the University of Michigan’s Faculty Development office. I was also selected to participate in a three day “Train the Trainer” session in January 2020. The goal of the program was to train University of Michigan faculty and staff members interested in wellness to be a resource to give the program to others.

In addition, I am very proud to be a recipient of a $5000 Workplace Well-Being grant provided generously by the Michigan Medicine Wellness Office as a part of their new pilot program. My colleague and I are interested in the examining the effect that having healthy nutrition choices available 24/7 will have on well-being of busy Hospital Medicine faculty and staff.

What are you most proud of?

On a personal level, I am most proud of my background as a Chemical Engineer, (UM BSE '03) before my transition to medicine. I think having an engineering background makes me a better physician because I have complex problem solving skills which are helpful both when taking care of patients but also when looking a healthcare as a system. I am also incredibly proud of my family. My father was born in Tanzania during the tail-end of the British colonial rule. He left when he was a teenager and moved to India where he met my mother in graduate school. They then decided to move to the US in their mid-20s but were unable to come together, so my mom came first and my father followed 6 months later. Now that I am older, I realize what a terrifying experience that must have been for them. I am amazed about how they were able to navigate life in a new country and appreciate the sacrifices they made to provide for a comfortable life for my brother and me.

What are you most passionate about outside of work?

Like most people, I am passionate about spending time with my family and friends. I also live to travel. In May 2019, I traveled on a 2-week tour throughout Japan and in July 2019, I went with a friend in the division to Italy. I also spent 2 months in Australia and New Zealand during my 4th year of medical school. While the COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt on my travel plans for the moment, Iceland, Thailand and Peru are next on my list. I also am very interested in investing and retirement planning. At first it seems like a foreign language with a fairly steep learning curve, however once you get the basic concepts down, its actually kind of fun to try different things and learn about the various options. Finally, I dabble in a little bit of DIY home improvement projects – nothing major but if I watch a YouTube video and have all the tools necessary, I usually give the project a try. I haven’t broken anything yet!

Describe some of your leadership principles that have contributed to your success.

I was a University of Michigan Medical School Patient Safety and Quality Leadership Scholar (PASQUAL) in the 2018-2019 cohort. This program taught me important concepts about quality improvement, such as LEAN thinking and also strategies for patient safety and leadership on whole. The program also illustrated how engineering concepts can be applied to healthcare problems. I think my success draws from my ability to view challenges from a different mindset and to draw on my engineering experiences to problem-solve in a unique way.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

I would advise them to not try to take on all tasks/responsibilities themselves. When someone first takes on leadership roles, the tendency is to try to take on everything themselves to prove that they are invested as a leader. That can further lead to burnout and really worsens work-life balance. I think for people going into leadership for the first time, it’s important to try to realize what roles and tasks they need to take on, and what things can be delegated to other team members. This also helps the other team members feel that they are contributing and their input is important.

What advice would you give to someone interested in improving workplace well-being?

This is very important work and anything you do will have a benefit for your co-workers and yourself, so don't be afraid to try something. In my years, as a co-lead of the Hospital Medicine Wellness committee, I realized that not all initiatives are the "be-all end-all" solution and there is no "one size fits all" idea that will combat burnout and promote wellness for everybody. Different initiatives resonate with different people. I think it’s also important to listen to the ideas being given by the people in the "trenches". Leadership should not be coming up with ideas unilaterally without input and buy-in from the people who these ideas with ultimately affect the most. Also, I think the Michigan Medicine Wellness Office can be a resource to help connect you with people from different departments/division to get some ideas of what others have done.