This month we feature Dr. Hanh Huynh, Senior Instructor in the Faculty of Medicine as our Thriving faculty feature.
Based on your experiences, can you describe the relationship between student mental health and wellbeing, and learning?
Student mental health and wellbeing play a very important role in their learning. When a student is stressed, depressed or anxious, or when their physical wellbeing is affected, they cannot focus properly or learn effectively. As a faculty member and educator, I strive to support our UBC medical students by ensuring that they get the support they need in a timely fashion. As educators, we must recognize the limits of students’ cognitive capability and teach what is relevant and with the right amount. My teaching philosophy tends to be “less is more.”
Do you implement any strategies to support student mental health and wellbeing in the classroom/lab?
I employ the following strategies in my teaching to support my students’ mental health and wellbeing:
- Clear communication of the expected learning objectives
- Create a safe learning environment
- Make myself approachable and available on a regular basis to address their questions when required
- Acknowledge my students’ efforts and contributions
- Role model professional conduct such as good communication skills and completing required tasks on time
- Remind my students to sustain a balanced and healthy lifestyle and role model the lifestyle that I promote
- Introduce humour into the learning environment, when appropriate
Can you describe the role of your own mental health and wellbeing in your teaching, research and service to the community?
Since I was diagnosed with a pre-diabetic condition, I am conscious of leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle to role model what I teach to my students. I realize that it is not selfish of me to take care of my mental and physical health first so I can promote the message of prevention of non-communicable diseases to my medical students. By adopting this new healthy and active lifestyle for the past several years, I’ve become more alert, mindful and focused, and my enthusiasm in teaching is evidenced by my students’ evaluations.
Are there any specific initiatives and/or research you are involved in that promote health, mental health and wellbeing?
I collaborate with the Nutrition Center and the University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Vietnam to promote “habit formation,” an approach for developing and maintaining a physically active lifestyle and healthy eating habits to prevent non-communicable diseases such as overweight/obesity and diabetes. Furthermore, I incorporate meditation and breathing exercises as part of my daily routine to sustain and enhance my mental health.
In your role as faculty, how do you balance work and life commitments? Is there a metaphor that depicts this relationship?
To balance my work and life commitments, I identify my priorities and recognize my limits in life. I set a firm boundary for when it is time to focus on my professional work, my family and private life, and my own mental and physical wellbeing. To me, I only have 23 hours to fulfill my professional duty as faculty and educator, and my personal duty as husband and father. The 24th hour is reserved for my physical and mental exercises.
To put it another way: to enjoy beautiful flowers and their magnificent scent, one must make sure that the plant is nourished with the right nutrients and regular care. Similarly, to maintain a healthy body and mind, one must take great care of oneself.
Photo credit: Martin Dee
Dr. Hanh Huynh is a Senior Instructor in UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. He is also a Year 1 Site Director for the Vancouver Fraser Medical Program. Originally from Vietnam, Dr. Huynh completed his BSc (Cell Biology) in 1986 at UBC, continued on at UBC to receive an MSc (Cell Biology) in 1989, and a double PhD in Medicine (Neuroscience & Experimental Pathology) in 1994. To learn more about Dr. Huynh, please click here for his full online bio.