Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University proposes a Neuroplasticity-Based Suicide Prevention Program that will engage 750 medical students in activities to build awareness of suicide in medicine, provide training to respond to students in distress, increase access to online screening with counselor support, and offer neuroscience-based wellness training, peer groups, and a neuro-stigma elimination project.
Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM) and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) propose an MD/DO Healthy Minds Partnership to build a comprehensive suicide prevention program that will address high rates of stress, burnout, depression, and suicidal thoughts among their medical students. Rowan University is one of only two academic institutions in the United States that contains both an allopathic and an osteopathic medical school. Although RowanSOM operates a Medical Student Mental Health Clinic that serves students from both schools, there is currently no unified suicide prevention framework between the medical schools. This project is a response to three suicides involving students enrolled at Rowan University’s main campus in Fall 2019, a fatal overdose in 2021, and results of intake assessments that showed that 40% of medical students seeking mental health services were moderately or severely depressed, and 15% endorsed suicidal thoughts. The geographic catchment area will be three medical school campuses located in Camden and Gloucester counties of New Jersey. CMSRU is located in the City of Camden, which faces enormous social and economic challenges. RowanSOM has two campuses, one in Stratford, New Jersey, which is a suburb in Camden County, and one in Sewell, Gloucester County, which will begin admitting students in July 2022 and make RowanSOM the largest medical school in New Jersey. The population of focus will be medical students at CMSRU and RowanSOM. The current enrollment at RowanSOM is 850 students, including 6.7% African American, 8.2% Hispanic, 40.5% White, 39.5% Asian, and 5.0% Other. Fifty-one percent of RowanSOM students are female. CMSRU has 449 students enrolled, including 4.9% African American, 3.1% Hispanic, 45.2% White, 36% Asian, and 8.2% Other. Fifty-three percent of CMSRU students are female.
The goals of this project are to 1) Enhance the mental health and suicide prevention services on three medical school campuses at Rowan; 2) Implement a neuroscience-based wellness training curriculum that will improve life skills and reduce suicide risk; 3) Increase student and faculty readiness to identify and respond to medical students in distress; and 4) Increase help-seeking behaviors among medical students. Innovative activities include providing access to a voluntary online interactive screening tool with which medical students can screen themselves for mental health conditions and receive online counseling support, developing a Healthy Minds Partnership Challenge where both medical schools will compete with one another to determine which school can enroll the highest number of students, faculty, and staff in suicide prevention training, implementing neuroscience-based training activities to produce brain changes that support human flourishing, engaging students into a PEERS support group, developing a Neuro-Stigma Elimination Project, and implementing a Crisis Access and Response Educational System to educate students on how to access the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and other crisis services. Evaluation of the program will be conducted by Rutgers University.