Posts Tagged ‘medical education’

Catholic Health World reports on medical students learning Transcendental Meditation to counter stress, promote physician wellness

October 16, 2018

In the spirit of “Physician, heal thyself,” Catholic Health World reported on Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine offering Transcendental Meditation (TM) as an elective course to students during the past 4 years to help them avoid burnout and develop wellness, preparing them to become more effective physicians. The Uncarved Blog originally helped break the news of the early success of this program. Here is a PDF of the Catholic Health World article.

Medical students learn meditation to counter stress, promote physician wellness

October 15, 2018 (Volume 34, Number 18)
By Patricia Corrigan

Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine is believed to be the first major medical school in the country to offer Transcendental Meditation, or TM, as an elective course. Since 2014, the class has been offered to help medical students manage stress.

“A lot of studies show that as many as 50 percent of medical students and residents exhibit symptoms from stress that can develop into burnout, so we’re trying to help students focus on wellness for themselves by teaching skills that they can take with them, skills they will need to be effective physicians,” said Dr. Gregory Gruener, vice dean for education and a neurology professor at Stritch.



In addition to learning the meditation technique, the class reviews the neurophysiology of TM and includes a live demonstration of the brain wave patterns that occur during the practice. Students may attend five lectures over two semesters or view the lectures online. Stritch has even set aside meditation rooms for students.

Gruener counts the TM training as a success. “We don’t push it — it’s one technique — but a significant chunk of the students, about a third of each class, sign up for it, and almost 300 have enrolled since it started.” This year, 66 of the 165 first-year students have signed up so far, and Gruener expects another 10 to 20 to enroll.

Most students who have taken the class have reported the training has “a significant and fundamental impact” on their lives, Gruener said. Danielle Terrell, a resident in pediatric neurosurgery, is one of them.

“Going to medical school — well, that’s not a path to stress relief,” said Terrell. She first took the TM class three years ago and still meditates. “Right after the first meditation class, I instantly felt so much better. The initial benefits are still present, and TM is a great tool to have in my pocket for those days when I am overwhelmed.”

TM uses meditation skills similar to those found in the Catholic, Jesuit traditions of contemplative care. Deans in the admissions offices, the counseling faculty and the clinical physician supervisors at Stritch would agree. They also have learned the meditation technique, which was first taught in India in 1955 and introduced in the U.S. in 1959. An article about the TM class, published in Chicago Medicine magazine in January 2016, is now made available to all students who apply to Stritch.



“Two students told us they chose Loyola because of the TM elective,” said Carla L. Brown, who teaches the course at Stritch. She co-directs the Center for Leadership Performance in Chicago with her husband, Duncan Brown, who also teaches TM at Stritch on an adjunct basis.

“TM changes the brain — that has been documented scientifically,” Carla Brown said. “It taps into our innate capacity to experience restful alertness, and that refines the functioning of our physiology.” The website for the meditation method notes that some 380 published, peer-reviewed research studies have found that TM “markedly reduces stress, anxiety, and fatigue, improves learning ability and promotes balanced functioning of mind and body.”

The medical school is keeping track of whether former students still practice TM. “We haven’t received all the information yet, but even those that are meditating once a day now say they do still notice a benefit,” Gruener said. “Our real concern is how they do away from the support system that was in place for them here, and we will continue to keep in touch.”

Also, as part of a student’s PhD thesis, some faculty members have had MRI scans before and after meditating to determine whether there are changes in the brain that have to do with “anxiety or stress or emotionality.” The study is complete, but Gruener said the data from the thesis is not yet available.


Dr. Danielle Terrell, a resident in pediatric neurosurgery at Louisiana State University — Shreveport, practices stress-busting meditation techniques she learned as a medical student at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

The TM class includes outside speakers, among them retired Col. Brian Rees, a physician who talks about the use of meditation in his work with individuals in the military related to building resiliency and the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. “Students in medical school want to know about the science supporting TM, and they want to meet physicians who research and also practice it,” Gruener said.

The decision to add the meditation technique to the curriculum was serendipitous. “As we were trying to build a broader menu into our wellness program, we heard from a former medical student who had dropped out of school because of anxiety,” Gruener said. “He saw a billboard advertising TM, took the class and found it had a dramatic impact on his life — and he provided the money to begin a pilot program here.”

That program commenced in the fall of 2013. Later, it was modified and the decision was made to offer the course as an elective, with a more flexible schedule. Gruener noted that one reason some students do not enroll is because of the time required to take the five classes and the need to find 20 minutes twice a day to meditate.

“Some students view that as time taken away from studying, even though we try to let them know that if you take care of yourself now, there is a big payback later,” Gruener said. Laughing, he added, “Also, physicians tend to be hardheaded if something isn’t in pill form or can’t be injected. Carla and I have joked that if we had a pill to relieve stress that cost $1,000, all the students would want to take it.”

Gruener said he practices TM, and he openly credits it with reducing his own stress. “You have to embrace wellness and you have to find the time to take control of your own life,” he said. “Once you begin TM, that gets easier.”

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Permission granted by Catholic Health World, October 15, 2018.
Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States.
I added all hyperlinks except the SSOM-LUC in the opening sentence.
Article URL:

UPDATE: On January 20 and 27, 2021, Dr Tony Nader, MD, PhD, made presentations at LOYOLA University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine via Zoom: 1) Psychiatry Grand Rounds, Loyola University, for medical doctors and health care professionals: Effectiveness of the Transcendental Meditation Technique for Dissolving Stress and Improving Health and 2) The Purpose of Meditation: Physician Wellness through the Transcendental Meditation Technique.

The first Transcendental Meditation elective course offered at a major US medical school

January 30, 2016

The January 2016 issue of Chicago Medicine, (Vol 119, issue 1), a publication of the Chicago Medical Society and the Medical Society of Cook County, published two related articles on the Transcendental Meditation technique and medical education. This is the first time TM has been offered as an elective course for medical students in a major US medical school!

How This Happened

Dr. Norman Rosenthal speaks on TM at Stritch small

I asked TM Teacher Carla Brown how this came about and she explained the back story. Stritch alumnus James Bray MD had sent a letter to his colleague, Dean Linda Brubaker MD, urging her to host George Washington University clinical professor of psychiatry, Norman Rosenthal. Dr. Rosenthal’s talk about the Transcendental Meditation technique and its impact on health moved Linda and Vice Dean of Education Gregory Gruener to invite Duncan and Carla Brown to teach them and their students to meditate. Stritch School of Medicine is the medical school affiliated with Loyola University Chicago.

Since that time a team of MDs and TM teachers have guided Stritch students. The program really took off when Richard Carroll MD, ScM, FACC, joined Duncan and Carla Brown and Deans Gregory Gruener MD and Aaron Michelfelder MD.

“Dr. Carroll helped us create a flexible, blended curriculum,” said Carla. “Students start the TM technique throughout the year as they are free to do so and are able to either attend the five classes given by leading doctors and researchers held throughout the year, or review one or more classes on-line.”

C. Brown,R. Carroll, R. Schneider, D. Brown

Dr. Carla Brown, Dr. Richard Carroll, Dr. Robert Schneider, Duncan Brown

In this picture Dr. Carla Brown, Dr. Richard Carroll and Duncan Brown welcome Robert Schneider MD, FACC (second from right). Dr. Schneider is director, Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, Maharishi University of Management, and has led CVD experts and medical researchers from around the country in conducting NIH-funded research over the last 20 years.

Chicago Medicine TM Articles

The first article, Physician, Heal Thyself: Stritch School of Medicine students give new meaning to the adage, was written by Carla L. Brown, EdD, and Gregory Gruener, MD. Students at the Stritch School of Medicine learn about the science and methodology behind the Transcendental Meditation technique in the first TM elective course offered at a major medical school in the United States.

Carla L. Brown, EdD, is an adjunct professor at the Stritch School of Medicine and director of the Center for Leadership Performance, Chicago. Gregory Gruener, MD, MBA, is vice dean for education, and the Ralph P. Leischner, Jr., MD, Professor of Medical Education, and professor and associate chair of the department of neurology at Stritch. The authors conclude with Implications for Patients and Physicians.

Our experience with beginning years of MDED-400 is that students can easily take control of their own wellness by gaining deep rest and improving brain functioning with twice daily TM practice. Attending physicians and students report that TM has added balance to their lives.

Having TM as a tool means our students can recommend something that they know will help, based upon their own experience and upon substantial evidence. They can avoid burnout and maintain their enthusiasm for practicing medicine. They can also become the role models we all aspire to be. Our students have demonstrated that we can join them in restoring our own balance, enthusiasm, and mastery.

The medical profession is in desperate need of support. We’re told, “Physician, heal thyself.” But how? Stritch students have demonstrated that TM might just be the prescription to help answer this charge, by making our profession a more rewarding experience while also offering something of great value for our patients.

Maura Tresch, MDThe second article, The Supporting Science: Multiple studies show the Transcendental Meditation technique can reduce stress, anxiety and cardiovascular disease risk, was written by Maura Tresch, a student who graduated from the program and is now a global health scholar and family medicine resident at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida. She ends her article with this valuable advice: Take Care of Yourself.

By recommending TM we can inoculate our patients against stress and its associated effects. With TM we do not “manage” stress—we get rid of it. With the stress gone, the health of the body and mind can improve. This is the essence of preventive medicine.

I have been told that “you cannot help others before you help yourself.” When we take an airplane flight, the stewardess tells us that in the event of an emergency, we are to put on our own oxygen mask before we help someone else. To properly care for my patients, I must first care for myself so that I can give them my best possible attentive mind.

Click here to read both articles on pages 22-27. The first one describes the Stritch TM elective, launched in 2014-2015, how the course came about, some of the structure and content, and guest lecturers. It contains photos and some amazing anecdotes from former students now practicing physicians who benefited from TM in challenging circumstances.

Editor’s note: The Chicago Medical Society advocates for 17,000 Chicagoland physicians and their 5 million patients. This issue was mailed to 9,000 physicians, available to patients in their waiting rooms.

Media Response

NPR – WBEZ – The Morning Shift

On Wednesday, February 24, 2016, Chicago NPR station WBEZ’s Tony Sarabia interviewed Dr. Carla Brown and med student Dani Terrell on The Morning Shift. Here is the interview with the lead-in on SoundCloud. Their website introduces this 4th segment of their show: How Loyola’s Meditating Med Students Are Transcending Stress.

The Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University is the first major medical school in the country to offer a class in Transcendental Meditation. We talk to course instructor Dr. Carla Brown and second-year medical student Danielle Terrell about the class, why it’s being offered, and how the students are using the TM technique to manage the stress and workload of their demanding educational program. [Listen here.]

It’s not easy to get into medical school. Carla said 10,000 students apply to Stritch School of Medicine. They are whittled down to 6,000 and 10%, or 600, are selected for interviews, with only 160 admitted. So Dani represents the cream of the crop!  Listen to her comments in this 15-minute interview.

PBS – WTTW – Chicago Tonight

On Thursday, February 25, 2016, WTTW (PBS 11) Chicago Tonight host Phil Ponce spoke with Linda Brubaker, MD, Dean of Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine; Carla Brown, TM Teacher and adjunct professor of the Physician Wellness Program; and Danielle Terrell, a 2nd year med student, about this topic. Watch this impressive interview here.

Chicago Tonight-Physician Heal Thyself

Phil Ponce, Carla Brown, Danielle Terrell, Dean Linda Brubaker, MD.

Phil starts by asking Dean Brubaker why the Stritch School of Medicine decided to introduce this course, and she replies that “this is really a no-brainer” for them, ‘there’s no risk to this,” that they want their “students to learn self-care so that they can become resilient doctors, and Transcendental Meditation is one of the things that can help them get there. We want to bring them to their highest potential in spirit, mind, and body, and this hits all of those.”

Thinking it may be an odd course to be teaching at a medical school, Phil asks the Dean how colleagues at other schools are reacting. If anything, she says, they’re getting a lot of calls and emails asking, “Where can I learn this? How can I get on the bandwagon?” She explains, “They see the benefits in our students, staff, and faculty; it has made a big difference at our medical school. This is a core of how we teach our students self-care. And who wouldn’t want a doctor who’s taking good care of themselves, and has more to give to their patients?”

Dean Brubaker elaborates more when Phil asks why the medical profession is so stressful. She tells him it’s “high-stakes work” to properly diagnose, treat, and help patients get well. “It takes a lot of technical skill, a lot of cognitive skill, and continuous learning for the 25, 35, 45 years that you’re practicing as a physician. That’s a long time to be in a high-stakes situation. And it’s important that you learn self-care so that you don’t burnout, that you remain resilient, that you exhibit outstanding professionalism the whole time you practice as a physician.”

Here was the original introduction (PDF), and the newly updated PDF of that show segment. Click the title to see this stellar 12-minute interview: Loyola University Offers Medical Students Meditation to Combat Stress


Members who attended the July meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges, Vancouver 2016, each received copies of the Chicago Medicine articles. All incoming and existing medical students at LUC/SSOM will receive copies as well. Both students and faculty have been learning TM, and more will start in the next school year.

On August 22, 2016, the Loyola University Health System Newsroom seemed to follow my lead by boldly issuing this press release: LOYOLA FIRST MEDICAL SCHOOL IN COUNTRY TO OFFER ELECTIVE IN TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION  an accomplishment they should really be proud of!

A similar situation in military education is taking place at Norwich University. See Norwich University, oldest private U.S. military college, benefits from Transcendental Meditation.

In related news: There is hope for family caregivers burning out taking care of their elderly infirmed loved ones. Also read this Excellent article on Transcendental Meditation written by Sarah Klein in Prevention Magazine. Posted Oct 31, 2017: Central Saanich Police Service and Area Police Officers Benefit from #TranscendentalMeditation.

On September 16, 2017, David Orme-Johnson, PhD gave the first talk in this year’s lecture series to medical students enrolled in the TM program at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine. He delivered a two-part presentation. Part 1: The Effects of TM on Brain and Cognitive Processes, and Part 2: Effects of TM on the Autonomic Nervous System and Health. Dr. Orme-Johnson reviewed a large body of research showing TM as a powerful tool that can help medical students and doctors reduce stress and improve their ability to assimilate large amounts of information. Click on this title to read his comprehensive presentation filled with graphics: What does 47 years of research tell us about the Transcendental Meditation technique?

On October 15, 2018, the Catholic Health Association of the United States published this excellent article in Catholic Health World: Medical students learn meditation to counter stress, promote physician wellness.


January 20 and 27, 2021, Dr Tony Nader, MD, PhD, made presentations at LOYOLA University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine via Zoom: 1) Psychiatry Grand Rounds, Loyola University, for medical doctors and health care professionals: Effectiveness of the Transcendental Meditation Technique for Dissolving Stress and Improving Health and 2) The Purpose of Meditation: Physician Wellness through the Transcendental Meditation Technique.

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