Two groups of representatives from the Jed Foundation will be on campus on April 25 and 26 as part of Dartmouth’s four-year partnership with the nonprofit mental health organization.
The two-day site visit, which follows a February visit that looked at undergraduate mental health, will focus on Dartmouth’s graduate and professional schools. One team will work with the Geisel School of Medicine, while the other will concentrate on the Guarini School of Graduate and Advance Studies, Thayer School of Engineering, and Tuck School of Business, collectively.
Dartmouth began working with the Jed Foundation’s JED Campus program in fall 2021 as part of an effort to address increased mental health needs on campus that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Site visits from the program are a critical part of this partnership, says Mark Reed, director of the Dartmouth College Health Service.
“Meeting with students, faculty, and staff and getting to know our physical campus brings to life the data Jed has already been reviewing,” says Reed. “These site visits are an important piece in helping Jed make recommendations to meet the needs of each of our individual schools as well as for Dartmouth as a whole.”
In the fall, all students were invited to take the Healthy Minds Survey, which asked for feedback about campus climate and mental health resources available on campus. Dartmouth also convened working committees consisting of students, faculty, and senior leadership for the undergraduate division of Arts and Sciences and for each of Dartmouth’s professional and graduate schools to complete a comprehensive self-study of relevant mental health policies and procedures.
During the site visit next week, Jed representatives will meet with stakeholders and members of each school’s Jed committee to review the self-study and Healthy Minds Survey findings and help draft a strategic plan that the committees will refine and share with Dartmouth senior leadership this spring. Additional campus stakeholders will also have opportunities to provide input in the drafting of the plan.
Geisel’s committee has elected to work separately with the JED Campus program to better address the specific needs of medical students, while the other graduate and professional schools are combining their efforts.
“Medical students have been shown to have rates of anxiety and depression up to five times higher than the general population and are less likely to seek care, due to stigma and lack of access to care. We have to find solutions to this problem,” says Matthew Duncan, an assistant professor of psychiatry and medical education and clinical director of integrated care at Dartmouth Health, who is co-lead of the Geisel committee.
“Jed is a national leader in opening the conversation around mental health and guiding schools through a process or lasting, measurable change. In addition to broad community engagement, JED Campus requires full leadership support, which we have from our president, provost, deans and student government leaders,” he says. “Jed will help us measure what we are doing, bring proven approaches to this problem and help connect us to a community of other schools who are also committed to addressing the rising mental health needs of young adults and professional students. I believe that over the four-year JED Campus partnership we can transform the way we talk about and deliver support for mental health at Dartmouth.”
Sonia Nagy Chimienti, a physician and senior associate dean for medical education who is a member of the Geisel committee, says the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the challenges medical students face.
“Medicine is a field that thrives on connections, teamwork, and collaboration, and this has been missing at many points over the past few years,” Chimienti says. “The isolation, the limited social connectedness, and the modifications from typical educational activities have all had unintended consequences. We need to better understand the impact on students’ well-being so that we may build programs and supports that meet the needs of our learners.”
Chimienti says the Jed Foundation’s data-driven approach “will help us to tailor our programs effectively, which will ultimately help us to create an even better learning environment for our students. We look forward to learning from the team and utilizing this information to support these wonderful students who have partnered with us in their medical education.”
Thayer committee co-lead Petra Bonfert-Taylor, a professor of engineering and associate dean for diversity and inclusion at Thayer, says the needs of graduate and professional students are similar to but distinct from those of undergraduates.
“We have heard from students, loud and clear, that access to affordable ongoing mental health support in the Upper Valley is a real challenge,” Bonfert-Taylor says. “The survey results have illuminated the magnitude and nature of the difficulties our students are facing. These cannot be ignored. Thayer is committed to working with the other professional schools and Dartmouth as a whole to develop joint strategies that build a cohesive system of support around mental health.”
Mikael Clement, Tuck ’22, is a student lead for the Jed Tuck committee and co-lead for Tuck’s Mental Health and Awareness Initiative.
“I hope that the Jed visit helps Tuck and the other graduate schools find and address gaps regarding mental health awareness and resources for students,” he says. “The last two years have been particularly challenging when it comes to mental health. At Tuck, we have started different initiatives to support students, such as the peer-support counselor program. Still, there are areas where we can improve, and I believe having an objective third party with expertise in the space advise on these changes can make a great difference.”
To help manage Dartmouth’s work with Jed and the implementation of the strategic plan, the Student Wellness Center has hired Katie Lenhoff as JED Campus project manager. Lenhoff, who holds a master’s of public health from the University of Washington-Seattle, most recently served as a program specialist at the Dartmouth Cancer Center (previously known as the Norris Cotton Cancer Center) where she helped implement a tobacco cessation program, among other public health initiatives.
Reed says that he has been gratified by how engaged the Dartmouth community—from students, staff, and faculty to parents, alumni, senior leadership, and trustees—has been in the JED Campus project.
“We are very pleased to have our entire community so invested in this partnership to enhance the mental health and well-being of our students,” he says.