Your friendly neighbourhood Wellbeing Support Coordinator

Photo by Tyler MacIntyre

Hi everyone! I’m Karen Ross, the Faculty of Medicine’s new Graduate & Postdoctoral Wellbeing Support Coordinator (really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?).

Why was I hired? Well, in late 2018, the Faculty of Medicine surveyed grad students about their learning environment and heard that many students felt overwhelmed, over-stressed, and struggled with work-life balance. Similarly, in 2019, an external review of the Faculty of Medicine pointed to grad student wellness as an area of pressing concern. The Graduate & Postdoctoral Education (GPE) Office recognized a need to address grad student and postdoc wellbeing at multiple levels—from frontline support for trainees in difficulty and distress, to higher-level shifts that improve life for all trainees across the Faculty. So that’s where I come in!

About me: I was a grad student myself until very recently. I earned my PhD in Counselling Psychology from the University of Calgary in February 2020 (like some of you, I’ve had my June convocation ceremony cancelled. I’ve never been so disappointed to not wear a ridiculous hat). My dissertation focused on postsecondary student mental health across Canada, zooming in on tensions that can arise from different understandings of mental health and distress. I argued that rather than attempting to control and standardize narratives of student mental health, we should welcome multiple meanings and interpretations—even those that contradict one another. I see wellbeing as a dynamic by-product of interactions between external conditions (material, sociocultural, political, social-relational, etc.) and personal resources.

Outside of work … beyond the basics of “spending time with friends” and “enjoying Vancouver,” I enjoy craft beer, making crafts, Beyoncé, and board games (my current favourite is Codenames). I harbour a weakness for celebrity gossip, slow fashion, and The Great British Baking Show, and have recently faced my fear of improv/acting to join a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. I’ve worked as a Registered Clinical Counsellor, including a pre-doctoral internship at Simon Fraser University; before I started my PhD, I worked at the Canadian Cancer Society near VGH. Anything else you want to know? Just ask!

I’m looking forward to getting to know many of you over the coming year. Usually, I would be inviting trainees to connect with me over coffee, snacks, or lunch; it’s harder to be a good host online! But I’ll do my best. I would love to hear from you if you have thoughts or ideas related to wellbeing in the Faculty of Medicine.