An Examination of Mindfulness-Based Programs in US Medical Schools

Abstract

Some medical schools have begun introducing mindfulness concepts to their students, and academic mindfulness centers associated with medical schools (AMCAMS) have started to emerge. However, knowledge of the expansion of mindfulness-based interventions within academic medical institutions is primarily anecdotal. The study objective was to evaluate the scope of mindfulness-related activities across medical schools in the USA and to identify AMCAMS and their programmatic characteristics. First, we conducted a systematic website content search to evaluate mindfulness activities related to wellness, research, clinical use, and education among the 140 accredited US medical schools. Second, we surveyed AMCAMS directors to query the type of programs offered, the type of professionals participating at AMCAMS, and approaches for financial sustainability. Website content analysis showed that mindfulness-related activity was present at 79 % of US medical schools in 2014. Activities for wellness (87/140; 62 %) and research (69/140; 49 %) were most common. A potential AMCAMS was identified at 27 % (38/140) of medical schools, and 33 of 38 directors at those centers completed our survey (87 % response rate). AMCAMS directors reported that the most commonly offered program was Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) followed by Mindful Movement and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). Private-pay MBI groups (21/33; 64 %), private donations (17/33; 52 %), and fee-for-service billing (16/33; 48 %) were the most common contributors to financial sustainability. This is the first effort to collect data on all mindfulness-based programming within US medical schools and the first study to describe and identify AMCAMS characteristics. We discuss next steps for research on AMCAMS and dissemination of mindfulness in medicine.

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Acknowledgments

The research team would like to thank the AMCAMS directors for completing the survey.

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Correspondence to Zev Schuman-Olivier.

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Funding/Support

Gold Foundation, Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

No funding was received for this specific project.

Other Disclosures

None.

Ethical Approval

Ethical approval has been granted by the Institutional Review Board of Cambridge Health Alliance on 5/2/2014, Reference number CHA-IRB-0990/05/14.

The work was carried out in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki, including, but not limited to the anonymity of AMCAMS directors being guaranteed, and the informed consent of participants was obtained.

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Barnes, N., Hattan, P., Black, D.S. et al. An Examination of Mindfulness-Based Programs in US Medical Schools. Mindfulness 8, 489–494 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0623-8

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness-based interventions
  • Medical school
  • Medicine
  • Sustainability
  • Mindfulness center