Gift to Support Mental Health for UC Medical Students

Student wellness program at College of Medicine helps budding physicians address stress and burnout

A gift from a former University of Cincinnati faculty member will support and name a current program providing mental health services to UC College of Medicine students.

Stephan WeissStephan D. Weiss, PhD, has pledged $100,000 to endow The Stephan D. Weiss, PhD Student Mental Health Wellness Program at the college. His gift will provide the program with a source of funding in perpetuity, as conversations around mental health take a more prominent role in medical training.

"We are committed to a holistic education at the College of Medicine, ensuring our students are supported in each aspect of their training, including the vital area of mental health," said Andrew T. Filak Jr., MD, senior vice president for health affairs and Christian R. Holmes Professor and Dean. "I am deeply grateful for Dr. Weiss’ gift and his partnership, given his long history of leadership and research in this area."

Weiss is a pioneer in student mental health since creating the UC Student Mental Health Program in 1972, where he also served as coordinator until his retirement as a tenured UC associate professor in the departments of psychology and psychiatry. Since then, he has continued to support college mental health by serving on the Foundation Board of the American College Health Association.

"These students are under tremendous pressure," said Weiss. "They often feel very isolated from each other, particularly in times when they are stressed."

"What we’re seeing now, especially with the pandemic, is a major demand for services alongside the need to find ways to make services possible for the fewest dollars, due to budgetary constraints. I faced that from the beginning of my work with student mental health at UC, so returning to this area is very natural for me. It’s serendipity."

In addition to providing financial support, Weiss will be serving as consultant and liaison to the wellness program, which is run by college faculty. It includes awareness efforts, as well as diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic mental health services provided by faculty of the UC Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience.

"Across the nation, the levels of stress and burnout among physicians and medical students are extremely high. This is a concern for all of us in the medical profession," said Melissa DelBello, MD, Dr. Stanley and Mickey Kaplan Professor and UC Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience chair. "We are glad to be able to offer services to our students, and very appreciative of Dr. Weiss’ shared vision of expanding access to mental health services."

Aurora Bennett, MD, associate dean for student affairs, helped develop the program and also leads it. She says that instilling mental health hygiene and teaching coping strategies early in students’ training will help them in all aspects of their careers.

"Physicians struggling with stress and burnout are more likely to commit errors, show less empathy to their patients and have a higher risk of substance abuse," said Bennett, who also is a professor of psychiatry at the college.

"Thankfully, students today have less stigma of reaching out," she added. "Our program has seen marked increase in demand in the past two years, and we’re expecting it to grow. We’re extremely grateful for Dr. Weiss’ gift and his collaboration as we continue to support our students in all their needs."

This donation supports the priorities of Next, Now: The Campaign for Cincinnati, the comprehensive fundraising effort for UC and UC Health.