Wellness for women physicians

PFSP Perspectives

February 16, 2017

Dr. Amber G. Fripp, General Internal Medicine Specialist
Contributed by Amber G. Fripp, MD, FRCPC | General Internal Medicine Specialist

Dr. Amber Fripp, a practicing general internal medicine specialist in Calgary, is an advocate of taking ownership of a healthy lifestyle. She has a passion for fitness and an interest in promoting health and wellness amongst her colleagues. She believes health and wellness is achievable in every stage of a medical career and that it builds a stronger foundation for a balanced life. In other words, “Do it for your patients. Do it for yourself.®

In October 2016, I took eight female medical students and senior residents to a STRONGCAMP® event, a weekend for women of all sizes, ages and fitness levels to come together to celebrate their strengths. Boot camp-style workouts and yoga were interspersed with motivational speeches and nutrition seminars. The event was packed full of soul-fuelling inspiration. At the event, we bonded as we challenged ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Together, we sweated, shared stories, laughed and even cried. The experience moved, inspired and changed us, and we did it together as women in medicine, as we learned about fitness, nutrition, health and life.

Wellness is a passion of mine, and it was wonderful to share that with a group of medical students and residents. I believe it gave us, as women, an opportunity to bond and share experiences and build a mentorship relationship that is lacking for women in medicine, especially in the fitness arena. Many of the male staff physicians play hockey or other sports with the medical students/residents, but this opportunity is largely missing for women. This was a unique experience to build relationships, share a love of sport and reach out to women in medicine to build those relationships that are so important as medical students navigate their education. I've already been contacted by several of the group about career planning and practicum exposure, and of course questions around fitness. It was such a success; I plan to organize this as a yearly event.

The most common question I get asked is, "How did you keep it up through training?” My answer is that fitness is a priority; exercise is a powerful stress relief for me. It empowers me as a woman to be strong and healthy, and I believe I model that to my patients as well. Fitness means a lot of different things to different people, but I believe helping my patients, medical students and family achieve moments of health empowers them to take control of what they can. This sense of wellbeing brings so much more than a pill or simple prescription can achieve. I believe we can all benefit from fitness and as female physicians, it’s a wonderful arena to bond and de-stress.

And the medical students and residents? They loved it! For some, it was getting back into things after an illness. For others, it reinforced positive exercise behavior. For others it was empowering and confidence building. And yes, whatever your sport is, it’s possible to keep it up through your residency, career, motherhood and beyond. I plan to be exercising when I'm 90. It may look different, but it will still be exercise.

Meeting the medical students/residents and hearing their stories was wonderful. I was so inspired by each of them. I think it’s important to support each other as women as we journey through medical education and beyond together. Engaging women in fitness early on encourages positive behavior that helps provide an outlet to deal with stress. I believe it leads to better relationships, better physicians and more well-rounded individuals. And it’s fun!

When we are healthy and inspired, we have an opportunity to share that with our colleagues, our patients and our families. If you may be interested in being part of the next experience, contact agfripp@ucalgary.ca

On my bookshelf

Here are a few resources on mentoring that might be useful:

Mentoring in Medicine

Mindtools on Mentoring

How Social Media is Changing Mentorship

7 Key Qualities of an Effective Mentor

Federation of Medical Women of Canada fmwc.ca

Publications from the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine (a variety to choose from on fitness and nutrition) www.instituteoflifestylemedicine.org/publications/

Articles by Dr. Mamta Gautam (previous president of the Federation of Medical Women in Canada) www.drgautam.com/gautam/papers.htm

Dr. Gautam will also be delivering a keynote on behalf of PFSP at the upcoming 2017 Alberta Psychiatric Association conference.

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The Alberta Medical Association stands as an advocate for its physician members, providing leadership & support for their role in the provision of quality health care.