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Ep 103. Benoit Dube: Ivy League's First Chief Wellness Officer

By Work and Life with Stew Friedman

Dr. Benoit Dube is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine, Associate Vice Provost, and the inaugural Chief Wellness Officer at the University of Pennsylvania.  Indeed, he’s the first in the Ivy League to hold such a position, which is, in itself, a response to the urgent mental health issues facing college campuses. Dr. Dube is a core member of the University Life team, directing wellness initiatives across the University and overseeing a new division of Student Wellness Services that includes the Offices of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives, Campus Health, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Penn Violence Prevention, and the Student Health Service. He began at Penn in 1997 as a Resident and is now an Attending Physician at the Hospital of the U. of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, and Pennsylvania Hospital. He received a Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2011, earned an M.D. from the University of Montreal in 1997, and a BSc in Psychology from Concordia University in 1992. Stew and Benoit discuss the importance of creating a culture of wellness, decreasing the stigma associated with mental illness, and making it easier for people to ask for help.  They discuss some of the changes he is making in the short-term, since he began as Chief Wellness Officer just a few months ago, as well as his vision for long-term change. For starters, students now have no wait time to speak with a counselor, who are available 24/7 -- that’s a significant change.  Benoit would like to see mental health and physical health all housed in and addressed in the same physical space. He’d like to create an environment where students learn the life skills to manage stressful situations, to modulate their emotions, to see stress as an opportunity for growth, and to know that it’s OK to ask for help. He envisions a new academic department in which  research, science, theory, and practice related to wellness -- whether in nursing, psychology, medicine, philosophy, or elsewhere throughout the university -- are brought into one hub of innovation. Ultimately, he’d like Penn students to bring evidence-based practices for producing wellness into the world when they graduate.

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