Thriving Faculty is a monthly column that highlights UBC faculty members who exemplify the integration of health and wellbeing into their classrooms, research, departments and communities.
What are central challenges you face in your role as Faculty?
Balance is the main challenge for me. As a new faculty member, there have been many opportunities to work on exciting studies, connect with like-minded researchers and talented students. It’s difficult to say no to things and to not take work home with me regularly.
Based on your experiences, please describe the relationship between student mental health & wellbeing and learning.
Mental and overall health is integral to academic success and learning. As a faculty member, it’s important to emphasize the importance of time/stress management to students, to be supportive and a resource. In the past, my department (School of Population and Public Health) has held pet therapy sessions where students could pet and play with a therapy dog to help combat increased stress during exams. Even though this may seem like a small initiative, it helps increase the visibility of mental health and wellness and contributes to the larger conversation about student health.
Describe the role of your own mental health and wellbeing in your teaching, research and service to the community.
My research is focused on healthy eating to promote wellbeing, healthy body weight and to prevent chronic disease. It’s important for me to practice what I preach. I really enjoy cooking. It’s a great way to unwind, try new things and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I also fit physical activity into every day. It helps me stay centered and some of my best ideas have come while walking my dog or running on the seawall. At the end of the day being healthy makes me a more engaged and thoughtful teacher, mentor and colleague.
What strategies do you use in your own life, that help you thrive as Faculty?
I put time aside for the things that are important, personally and professionally. I block out time in my calendar and stick to it. For example, if I have a grant due I will schedule time to write and find the best environment for me to accomplish that, whether it’s at my office, in the library or in a coffee shop. I also give myself incentives; if I finish writing the introduction to this paper then I can take a short break to read the newspaper. I’m a good self-motivator!
In your role as faculty, what is your experience balancing work-life commitments? Is there a metaphor that depicts this relationship?
I think cooking is a great metaphor. Sometimes things are hectic with seemingly dozens of items scattered around but you end up with a great meal. Other times the best laid plans can end up with a burnt meal even if you only neglect something for a moment (or ten). You get better with practice, more adept at timing and multi-tasking and in the end, hopefully a masterpiece that everyone loves.
Dr. Rachel Murphy recently joined UBC as an Assistant Professor in the Centre of Excellence in Cancer Prevention within the School of Population and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Murphy’s research focuses on nutrition, obesity, and chronic disease prevention. She studies how to reduce the risk of cancer through modifiable factors, such as diet, body weight, and physical activity with a particular interest in older populations. She aims to identify factors to prevent chronic disease, particularly cancer, and translate this information into targeted interventions. Dr. Murphy received her PhD in nutrition and metabolism from the University of Alberta, completed postdoctoral work at the National Institute on Aging in the US and worked at DSM Nutritional Products.