Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School student, Paul Lavadera expected his career would make him fight on the front lines to deal with medical emergencies. But he would never have thought he’d graduate during the biggest pandemic in a century when he joined forces two years back with Tracey Shors, who is the distinguished Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology, on an examination to see if medication and aerobic exercise would lessen pressure and improve the quality of life for the medical students like him.
Lavadera, who begins his four-year medicine residency at a COVID-19 only hospital in Brooklyn and Shors, who thinks she may have battled the novel coronavirus case, is using the stress-reducing methods and techniques that were taught to RWJMS medical students to help them in dealing with the anxiety and uncertainty left in the time of the crisis.
Lavadera who splits his time between two Brooklyn hospitals, SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Kings County Hospital in Flatbush said that he is isolating himself alone in his apartment and keeping himself updated on the changing guidelines on treatments recommendations and regarding COVID19. He added that she knows that he is making a conscious decision to avoid minute-by-minute sensational and disturbing news. He shared that he is working out, doing the training program and mediating and it keeps him afloat and helps him to keep his stress level down.
The latest Rutgers study is published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Lavadera and his coauthors Shors andPh.D student Emma Millon documented the effectiveness of the techniques that helped them through the novel coronavirus crisis. The researchers found that aerobic exercise combined with meditation reduces stress and rumination and also enhances the quality of life for medical students.
Over the period of eight weeks, first-year and second-year students of the medical school participated in an intervention, the mental and physical training called MAP Train My Brain, two times in a week. It included 30 minutes meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise compared to the control group of student who didn’t participate in any of them.
Shors, who developed the MAP Training for the people who are dealing with trauma, depression and stress-related symptoms, has studied the impacts of this training program on different groups, including women living with HIV and women who have been sexually harassed, the study which has not been published yet
When Shors started the study on medical students with Lavadera, she expected that she already knew how stressful it could be for physicians to treat patients. But she gained much deeper insight during her illness.
From late February to early April for almost six weeks, Shors suffered from the COVID-19 symptoms at home including a persistent cough, trouble breathing, and debilitating fatigue. She went to rushy emergency departments for two times, got a chest X-ray that didn’t show any symptoms pneumonia and was sent home for isolation without getting the novel coronavirus test because she had no fever.
Shors, director of Graduate Studies in the department of psychology Center for Collaborative Neuroscience in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, remembers the nurses and the doctors. She said that behind their face masks she could see in their eyes the anxiety and stress that they are feeling. She added that she also experienced the compassion and professionalism that medical staff brings to every person coming in for help.
Researchers say the aim of the study was to provide the training program for medical students that would keep them both mentally and physically healthy, they also hoped that they would want to recommend this innovative program to their future patients.