Students from local chapters of Medicine in Motion, a nonprofit organization composed of a diverse group of healthcare providers whose mission is to address medical burnout through fitness, interdisciplinary community building, and philanthropy, took part in “Fenway Stadion,” which was organized and managed by Spartan, the recognized global leader in obstacle course racing.
“Burnout in the medical field is such a salient issue these days, we try to address it by organizing various fitness events like training sessions or competitions,” said Logan Briggs, a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society and M.D. candidate at Harvard Medical School and one of the founders of Medicine in Motion. “We’ve found that students, trainees, and attendings alike get a lot of fulfillment out of getting out there, meeting new people, and doing something healthy for their bodies and minds.”
The Fenway race drew 130 participants from Harvard medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine and Boston University School of Medicine, University of Massachusetts School of Medicine and Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.
“It can be hard to meet other students and professionals in your field that are not at your own institution,” said Jacob Klickstein, a Medicine in Motion leader and M.D. candidate at Tufts. “We can easily get caught up in our class work and clinical hours. But seeing as Boston has such a large medical community, it would be a missed opportunity to not branch out and meet people from other institutions and fields. This presents a great opportunity for our members to expand not only their professional network but also their friend circle.”
Participants and leaders have embraced the concept of community wellness and philanthropy.
“I think this event was really successful not only because of the amazing turnout, but really because of the atmosphere at the race,” said Stephanie Vaughn, an M.D. candidate from Boston University. “Wellness, and particularly wellness through fitness, is so often a thing that students do in a silo or with a small static group of friends, so it was really great to see so many students come together, and I think that the camaraderie was really special. In a field that can be very competitive at times, it was so nice to see people supporting each other by waiting for the people that they were racing with and cheering as they saw others pass by.”
Ready, set, race: The Medicine in Motion team – which
includes MGH staff – at the Buzzards Bay Triathlon.
In the early morning hours of Sept. 15, neonatologist Michael Prendergast, MD, finished an overnight shift in the MGHfC neonatal intensive care unit, jumped into a waiting car and headed to the Max Performance Buzzards Bay Triathlon, where he took first place honors in his age group – and secured an 11th place overall title – in the 1/3-mile swim, 14-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run.
“Changing from my scrubs into my triathlon suit, I essentially
switched from being part of one extraordinary MGH team – who care for patients,
families and each other – to joining an equally impressive group of MGH
students, residents and attendings who are members of the Medicine in Motion
group,” says Prendergast.
The Medicine in Motion group – comprised of medical
professionals from throughout the Boston area – was established two years
ago by four Harvard Medical School (HMS) students whose mission was to address
medical burnout through fitness, community building and philanthropy. Last
summer, it was designated as a national nonprofit and was given the 2019 HMS
Dean’s Community Service Award.
“We want people to really focus on their own wellness and
fitness because you have to take care of yourself so you can do what’s best for
your patients,” says Logan Briggs, a third-year resident and co-founder of
Medicine in Motion, who placed first in his age group and took third place
overall honors in the event. “We strive to incorporate people from all
different areas of the hospital – not just physicians – because an interdisciplinary
culture will facilitate better relationships with staff and ultimately better
patient care. Meeting new people also is such an important part of the human
psyche, and it’s another great way to address burnout.”
Briggs and Prendergast were two the 36 Medicine in Motion
teammates who competed in last month’s triathlon, a group that also included
some potential future members. Noelle Saillant, MD, of the Department of
Surgery, finished a 24-hour trauma surgery shift before tackling the running leg
of the triathlon relay – all while six months pregnant and pushing her
4-year-old son in a stroller. “She was literally carrying three people!” Briggs
says. “We gave her the ‘Put your Team on your Back Award.’”
also credits fellow medical students Chase Marso, Mike Seward, Derek Soled and
Cray Noah with helping to organize and coordinate the events. The group is open
to people of all athletic abilities – from entry-level newcomers to seasoned
competitors, Briggs says. And, it complements the work of the newly
established MGH Center for Physician Well-being – launched
last June – which promotes a culture of well-being and professional
“The MGH is a leader in so many things, and physician burnout is
an important topic of conversation,” Briggs says. “It’s so important to keep
your fitness level up and get your mind off all the stress and responsibility
that goes along with a career in medicine. We’re hoping to spread that mindset
and we’d love for more people to join us.”
Evan Stieler had never attended a bike race when he took part in the 2019 New England Ride for Autism and Disabilities.
The event took riders down a 100 mile route from Boston, Massachusetts to Newport, Rhode Island. Although the former USI student was tired by the end, he knew it was for a good cause.
Stieler graduated from USI in 2017 with a degree in biology. He currently studies at the Harvard School of Medicine which is where he came in contact with Medicine in Motion, an organization of medical professionals who focus on bridging fitness and philanthropy to the medical profession.
Stieler said the organization tries to participate in a long bike ride every year. This year they chose to attend a race by Bike to the Beach, an organization that holds bike races in major U.S. coastal cities to raise money for autism research and awareness.
“It was kind of a perfect fit and we all really enjoyed it,” Stieler said. “It was a beautiful bike ride. A lot of it hugged the Atlantic coast so you’re riding by the beach for a lot of it so you can always look to your left and see the ocean.”
Stieler didn’t get many chances to ride a bike when he lived in Evansville. To prepare for the race, he would practice on Saturdays, going from 30 miles one weekend to 35 the next so he could build up to the 100 miles.
“It shows you, if you have a mission or something you train for, we are all much more capable of those kinds of things than we even realize,” Stieler said.
The race began at 4:30 a.m. on Aug. 31. The Mediation in Motion team consisted of around 10 people who were mainly medical students that Stieler shared a class with. The ride lasted seven hours long.
“We really lucked out,” Stieler said. “It was a beautiful day. It was just over 80 degrees with a nice breeze and we didn’t have to fight any weather.”
Stieler biked through different cities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and scenic paths through forested areas.
“It was kind of nice that we had changing scenery because when you’re in a city you’re moving your legs for so long and it’s nice to have something to keep you occupied,” He said.
Stieler was more focused on finishing the race than speed, but during the last 10 miles, he did try to move faster, despite the fact his leg went numb around mile 90. He kept on expecting the end of the race to be on the next turn for the last few miles.
“I definitely felt very relieved to finally cross,” Stieler said. “I just felt so grateful that my friends had presented the idea to me and that I was willing to think about it and do it. It really was such a great experience just to fundraise the money and know it was going to an awesome cause.”
Medicine in Motion raised around $15,000 of the over $2 million total funds raised for the event. The Bike to the Beach website contains individual links to donate to specific racers. Stieler individually raised around $600, and he had never done a fundraiser before. He said the money goes to different organizations in the Northeastern U.S. tasked with different forms of autism and disability research and care.
“I thought it was for such an amazing cause,” Stieler said. “You draw so much motivation from other people who are like-minded and wanting to help out.”
Benjamin Dalley, the director of operations for Bike to the Beach, said people who can’t participate in the races can support the organization by sharing their website and telling their story.
“What Bike to the Beach is all about is trying to celebrate the disability community,” Dalley said. “There are so many people that are overcoming challenges every day in their disability or people who are hopping on their bikes for the first time to bike…people who are making a commitment to raise money to help the community. Bike to the Beach is all about inspiring people to be successful.”
Stieler said, as someone who never biked before, his experience shows that you can train for anything with the proper amount of dedication and preparation.
“Having in mind something that you’re training for really gives you something,” Stieler said. “I highly recommend it. I wish I would have done more in college.”
Stieler plans to attend a triathlon with Medicine in Motion this week. He said that after the 100 mile bike ride, the run will be no problem.
Back row, left to right: Katherine Ratzan Peeler, Michael W. Seward, Logan Briggs, Derek Soled, Chase Marso, Joan Reede, Charles Rickert and George Daley
Front row, left to right: Jennifer K. Tan, Miles G. Cunningham, Jeremy A. Goss, Ellen Levine and Philip Trevvett
Excellence in service and leadership is central to the missions of Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine.
Embodying humility, commitment to community and selfless advocacy for underserved and vulnerable populations, 14 Harvard Medical School faculty, staff, trainees and students were honored at the 2019 Dean’s Community Service Award ceremony on June 5.
HMS Dean George Q. Daley, the event’s first speaker, recognized the “impressive and life-changing efforts” of the honorees gathered for a celebratory breakfast in the Waterhouse Room at Gordon Hall.
“Thank you for being creative and tireless leaders who are advancing our mission of outreach and service to the needy, to the suffering, to those who may have been forgotten and to many diverse populations,” Daley said, “and for serving as activists and ambassadors … campaigning for better health—and better life—here in Boston and around the world.”
Whether promoting awareness of those with a rare disease, evaluating and documenting evidence of trauma for asylum seekers, integrating health, wellness and philanthropy to fund cancer research or leveraging technology to connect diaspora physicians to patients in rural Libya and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, this year’s recipients exemplify the School’s core values, according to Joan Reede, dean for diversity and community partnership at HMS, in remarks prior to presenting the awards.
“In these trying times, it sometimes feels like … we may be slipping back as opposed to moving forward,” said Reede. “It’s important to recognize that good work is still being done, that there is still a commitment to forward progression, and to justice, and to equity and to health care for everyone. It is part of who we are at Harvard. It is part of our mission. It is part of our values. It is part of who we are, and you are examples of the best of who we are.”
Charles Rickert, clinical fellow in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital and leader of the Community Health Team in the Mass General Department of Surgery, was recognized for his work to raise awareness within his department to improve patient care for underserved populations and at-risk youth. Expressing optimism for the future of health care for all, Rickert said, “When I think about health care in the United States and the medical community, there’s never been a group of people with greater potential to do good.”
Jennifer K. Tan, instructor in dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital, is a co-founder of the Harvard Dermatology-Boston Health Care for the Homeless collaboration. Accepting her award, she said that taking care of the homeless individuals and families in this program has been “the most meaningful piece of my career in medicine.”
Miles G. Cunningham,assistant professor of psychiatry at McLean Hospital, was presented with this year’s lifetime achievement award for his 24 years of service as founder and board member of Asniya, Inc. Established in 1995 when Cunningham was a fourth-year student at HMS, Asniya serves as an outreach program to expose Native American children to careers in health care, while expanding the cultural awareness of future physicians.
In accepting his award, Cunningham noted that despite the accolade of lifetime achievement, he has no plans to wind down. “We have so much more to do,” he said.
Like many of his fellow honorees, Cunningham shared his award with his many collaborators and colleagues, noting that he is just one member of a larger community of health care providers and advocates bound by a common call to change the world for the better.
“It is said that the strength of the pack is the wolf, but to me, truly,” Cunningham said, “the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
The Dean’s Community Service Awards, established in 1999, recognize individuals whose dedication and commitment to improving the lives of others have made a positive impact on local, national or international communities. The Lifetime Achievement Award was added in 2004.
There have been 142 awardees to date, including 54 faculty members (12 of whom have also earned Lifetime Achievement Awards), 30 trainees, 36 students and 22 staff members.
As part of the award program, HMS donates $1,000 to each community organization represented by the awardees, with 130 donations to date.
Image: Jeff Thiebauth
2019 HMS Dean’s Community Service Award Recipients
Miles G. Cunningham, assistant professor of psychiatry, McLean Hospital Asniya, Inc.