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Letters to the Editor

In Reply to Kassam and Ellaway

Gengoux, Grace W. PhD; Roberts, Laura Weiss MD, MA

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003035
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We thank Drs. Kassam and Ellaway for their response to our recent Invited Commentary. We are eager to continue the discussion about how medical schools can help their increasingly diverse student bodies to effectively learn and thrive both during training and as physicians. In their letter, the authors specifically highlight the Wellness Innovation Scholarship for Health Professions Education and Health Sciences (WISHES) program at the Cumming School of Medicine. It is encouraging to see so many innovative wellness programs emerge focused on prevention and using inclusive models to enhance belonging for both students and faculty.

The argument that the path to well-being requires embracing individual differences and vulnerability is a compelling one. We agree that well-being must not be another form of perfectionism, but rather an acknowledgment that supporting the whole person enhances personal fulfillment and professional impact. By teaching, modeling, and championing self-compassion, we can embrace our common humanity while also valuing diverse perspectives.

Though our Invited Commentary focused on risk factors for depression, Drs. Kassam and Ellaway have appropriately pivoted to focus on competence and opportunity. The human capabilities approach they endorse is consistent with strengths-based models for intervention.1 Strength-based learning approaches have been applied successfully in a variety of classroom settings and have been shown to improve self-directed learning.2 New evidence also suggests that positive self-valuation may be protective for physicians.3 This body of literature suggests that greater focus on student capabilities and diverse strengths is an important area for medical education program development.

Academic Medicine is well-positioned to be a forum for discussion and critical analysis of the best scientific contributions for improving physician well-being. Many of these will come from deliberate focus on the unique personal strengths of our diverse trainees. We look forward to engaging in this conversation with many colleagues in the years ahead.

Grace W. Gengoux, PhD
Well-being director and clinical associate professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California; [email protected]; ORCID:
Laura Weiss Roberts, MD, MA
Chairman and Katharine Dexter McCormick and Stanley McCormick Memorial Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California; [email protected]; ORCID:


1. Biswas-Diener R, Kashdan TB, Minhas G. A dynamic approach to psychological strength development and intervention. J Posit Psychol. 2011;6:106–118.
2. Hiemstra D, Van Yperen NW. The effects of strength-based versus deficit-based self-regulated learning strategies on students ’ effort intentions. Motiv Emot. 2015;39:656–668.
3. Trockel MT, Hamidi MS, Menon NK, et al. Self-valuation: Attending to the most important instrument in the practice of medicine. Mayo Clin Proc. 2019;94:2022–2031.
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