This month’s Thriving Faculty interview is with Lori Brotto, Associate Professor Division Head, Gynaecologic Specialties in UBC’s Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.
Thriving Faculty is a regular column highlighting UBC Faculty who exemplify integration of health and wellbeing into their classrooms, research, departments and communities. Thriving Faculty support others in their health and wellbeing, in addition to making a commitment to their own self-care. This column highlights personal and professional stories of Thriving Faculty.
What are the central challenges you face in your role as Faculty?
Time. I often feel over-committed, and although I have attempted to become more selective about the projects and initiatives I participate in, I am finding that those to which I am drawn are very time-intensive. Like most faculty, much of this work occurs “after hours”, so trying to maintain some work-life balance is often a struggle.
Based on your experiences, please describe the relationship between student mental health & wellbeing and learning?
I see this directly in the students I work with and supervise. Their confidence and ability to truly participate as a team member is heavily influenced by individual factors such as mood, stress, fatigue, and medical health.
Do you implement any strategies to support student mental health and wellbeing in the classroom/lab?
I schedule regular check-ins with all of my students and trainees. In addition to being an opportunity to discuss their research and/or clinical activities, it is also an opportunity to check in on their mental wellbeing. I have been so fortunate to work with an amazing group of students and trainees who share open communication.
Please describe the role of your own mental health and wellbeing in your teaching, research and service to the community?
I meditate every day, even on those overly committed days when you find yourself eating breakfast at 2pm. I also take part in some extracurricular physical activities that are important for my own mental wellbeing and energy. I try to focus on one activity at a time, whether it is immersing myself in writing a grant application, staring at a dataset carrying out statistical analyses, listening to the story of a patient, or engaging in a physical exercise. I try to focus solely on that activity and notice when my mind drifts to other factors on my to-do list. I use mindfulness to guide my attention back to one thing in the present moment.
What strategies do you use in your own life, that help you thrive as Faculty?
See previous answer. I also have three very busy and active children who make it easier for me to move my focus from work to “play”.
Are they any specific initiatives and/or research you are involved in that promote health, mental health and wellbeing?
A good part of my program of research involves developing and testing mindfulness-based interventions for women with various kinds of sexual health and gynaecologic difficulties. As a facilitator in these group sessions, I also actively take part in the exercises I invite my participants to take part in. There has evolved a wonderful synergy between my research on mindfulness for women and my own personal mindfulness practice, with both mutually influencing one another.
Are there any resources on campus that you have found to be helpful for promoting wellbeing for either yourself or your students?
I try to take advantage of the various workshops offered by the university that address topics around work-life balance, assertive communication, dealing with conflict, etc.
In your role as faculty, please describe your experience balancing work-life commitments? Is there a metaphor that depicts this relationship?
It’s a cliché, but fits entirely for me: Work hard, play hard.
Lori Brotto has a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and completed a Fellowship in Reproductive and Sexual Medicine from the University of Washington. She is currently an Associate Professor in the UBC Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Head of the Division of Gynaecologic Specialties, as well as a registered psychologist in Vancouver, Canada. She is the director of the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory where research primarily focuses on developing and testing psychological and mindfulness-based interventions for women with sexual desire and arousal difficulties and women with chronic genital pain. Other major lines of research include exploring sexuality and reproductive health in ethnic minority women, studying the intracrinology of androgen metabolites in women’s desire, asexuality, and sexuality after cancer. Dr. Brotto is the Associate Editor for two major sexuality journals, Archives of Sexual Behavior and Sexual and Relationship Therapy and has over 80 peer-reviewed publications.