School of Public Health and Community Medicine

First ‘Future Health Leader’ graduate helps medical students overcome burnout

Image - First ‘Future Health Leader’ graduate helps medical students overcome burnout

Dr Chunming Wang (Michael) is the first graduate of the UNSW School of Public Health’s Future Health Leaders program, which is leading to strong research outcomes and new collaborations.

The Director of the collaboration and development department of Renji Hospital Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, Dr Wang was nominated by his workplace for the elite three-year professional doctorate.

Completed in partnership with the hospital, Dr Wang’s research program was about burnout in medical students training and living at the hospital.

Through Dr Wang’s project, UNSW Sydney has developed a memorandum of understanding with Renji Hospital, opening up other collaborations in international health management training, nursing leadership training and research in memory and ageing.

Renji Hospital is Shanghai’s oldest hospital, with around 5000 staff, 4.3 million outpatient emergency attendances last year, and 100,000 surgeries.

Dr Wang’s research led to a successful intervention program for burnout - a serious concern for the hospital’s 400 dorm-based post-graduate medical students.

Burnout is characterised by exhaustion, cynicism and a reduction in efficacy. The intervention gives students a systematic peer support network.

“We recruited students to be volunteer mentors and these students work as a team that we trained with professors of psychology,” Dr Wang said. “It has resulted in significantly less burnout stress."

The Future Health Leaders program enables graduates to generate and use evidence within the context of real-world challenges and priorities.

It demonstrates the advantages of a professional doctorate as an alternative to a PhD for practitioners and leaders in public health and health management, and can be tailored to individuals and cohorts.

Dr Wang said he appreciated being able to solve a workplace problem with his research.

“The outcome for me has been very exciting. Based on these four years, my research skills have been greatly enhanced,” he said.

“Although the research was for medical students, the same strategy could be used for physicians – we have 1000 physicians working at the hospital - and meantime we have 2000 nurses working on campus, and five branches running in different locations.”