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U.S. Surgeon General Visits Drexel University to Discuss Emotional Wellness

April 26, 2017

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, made one of his first collegiate campus visits to Drexel University earlier this month, to hear from leaders about several key issues in public health - the opioid epidemic and emotional stress and well-being.

John Rich, MD, MPH, professor of Health Management and Policy in the Dornsife School of Public Health and director of the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice, served as the School of Public Health’s host for the visit. Dr. Rich had met the Surgeon General when he attended a meeting on emotional wellness convened by Dr. Murthy this past January in Washington, D.C. Emotional wellness and trauma informed practice have been key features of the Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice at Drexel, especially as manifested in Healing Hurt People, a trauma informed, hospital-based violence intervention program. 

He was keenly interested in hearing more about how the opioid epidemic was affecting Philadelphia and how the City is addressing this important public health problem. He was also interested in learning about how our students are managing stress. 

Dr. Murthy’s April 11 visit to Drexel included a listening session hosted by Provost Brian Blake, where he heard about the broad range of Drexel’s approaches to wellness from the College of Medicine, the Dornsife School of Public Health, the College of Nursing and Health Professions, the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Professional Studies, among others. Dornsife faculty members Alex Ortega, Shiriki Kumanyika, Marla Gold, Jennifer Kolker, Ted Corbin and Michael Yudell were among those in attendance. 

Photograph of Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy with Dornsife faculty

Following the meeting, Dr. Murthy and Drexel students met in Drexel's Expressive & Creative Interaction Technologies Center (ExCITe Center), for a dialogue hosted by Drexel colleagues Youngmoo Kim, PhD, and Kara Lindstrom, both of the ExCITe Center.

In meeting with student leaders, the Surgeon General suggested that despite our increasing technological connection to greater numbers of people, we are often lacking in social connection. He argued that social connection can mitigate the effects of stress, both in its physical and emotional manifestations. He engaged the students in a conversation about how they manage their own stress, through social connection and through contemplative and meditative strategies.

“Dr. Murthy is extremely personable and is an outstanding listener,” said Rich. “Because of his openness and intellectual curiosity, those participating in both settings felt free to share not only the tremendous strength of Drexel but also the larger challenges facing us as a city and as a society.

“I hope that we can continue an ongoing dialogue with the Surgeon General about how emotional wellness and social connection can enhance the health of our students, our university and Philadelphia,” said Rich. “Clearly, a focus on emotional wellness can only enhance our efforts to decrease violence and trauma, address the opioid epidemic, and battle chronic problems like obesity and food insecurity.”

Editor’s Note: Shortly after his visit to Drexel, Surgeon General Murthy was asked to resign from his post and was replaced by Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams, a nurse with a distinguished record of service to public health.