Dr. Christina Pastan guides students in breathing exercises during the Dental School 101 seminar.
The ultimate goal of dental health care providers is professional awareness to the delivery of conscious and compassionate care to their patients. This is achieved through competent clinical and technical skills, as well as sensitive communication skills. The profession of dentistry is known to be stressful and its effects can be detrimental to the dental provider personally and professionally. When stress is not managed properly in the clinical environment it can affect this goal.
The stressors of the dental profession begin with dental students in the first year of their education. Tufts Dental School incorporates the teaching of mind-body evidence-based self-regulation and coping skills in the curriculum. These skills support our students from the start of dental school and throughout the four years of their training. The practices of meditation and yoga cultivate conscious awareness and have been proven to reduce stress. Knowledge of these practices help our students manage the stress they incur from their rigorous academic studies and demanding clinical requirements. We value our students health personally and physically and our commitment to our wellness curriculum aims to decrease burnout and increase resilience. This we believe will impacts them beyond their dental education and serve them as they move into dental practice and in their personal lives and their commitment to the care of their patients.
– Christina DiBona Pastan, DMD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Endodontics and Director of Mind-Body Wellness, D’91, DG’94.
Read Dr. Pastan’s biography.
As dental students, we live in an environment that requires constant work and stimulation. At Tufts, we offer drop in meditation once a week during the lunch hour. This time allows us to take 15 minutes during the day to give our minds the relaxation they deserve. We focus on the practice of conscious awareness. We find ourselves consciously aware when we focus on our breath. In this relaxed state, we can acknowledge our thoughts and then let them go. The goal of drop in meditation is to help us develop this skill so that it is versatile and used throughout our days at school.
For those who have become dedicated to the practice, meditation is used as another material or instrument in our dental tool box. Whether we encounter stressful situations in clinic or during exams, meditation helps bring us back to center and allows us to calmly proceed.
Dentistry requires the use of the mind and body. Yoga offerings allow us to focus on the areas of our bodies that need healing. At Tufts our yoga practice integrates meditation, stretching and strengthening of our body while focusing on the areas that affect us during our daily work. Tufts yoga is a gentle way to take time for ourselves while giving our bodies the respect that it deserves.
The TUSDM Wellness Committee has dedicated much time into understanding the importance of physical and mental health of the students, faculty, and staff. In an effort to support this understanding we have integrated health and wellness into the curriculum in numerous ways. In the classroom, first years are introduced to the importance of a balanced school, social, and home schedule. Furthermore, the students are provided with lectures as well as an interactive opportunity to engage in learning the practice of meditation. Having this foundation, students can carry these learned practices throughout their time in the classroom and also upon entering and during clinic. Upon entering clinic, the committee plans to implement a pre-appointment routine, similar to studying before and exam or stretching before a game, that will consist of a quick overall body centering in order to allow the clinic to perform optimally. Understanding the demands of dental school from the perspective of the student, faculty, and staff the practice of weekly meditation and yoga sessions further stresses our commitment at TUSDM to provide a well-rounded, all-encompassing environment for a student to learn and faculty and staff to grow. Overall, integrating health and wellness into the curriculum allows for sustained, healthy growth of the TUSDM community and provides a means for the best patient care possible.
Wellness Committee Mission Statement
The TUSDM Wellness Committee is a passionate group of students, faculty and staff committed to developing an environment of mind-body wellness at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.
Our committee is dedicated to building and supporting wellness and stress management skills in the dental school curriculum centered on supporting our students throughout their years of training.
This environment of mind-body wellness empowers a healthy, balanced and inspired community of students as well as faculty and staff with resources that promote awareness of one’s ell being and of those we serve.
This culture of wellness that was envisioned and deliberately created is a unique and revolutionary asset to dental education as it ultimately impacts the excellent patient care our TUSDM institution provides.
Student Wellness Club
The culture of health and wellness at TUSDM is so strong that it is integrated into the curriculum. Tufts students are actively encouraged to seek a balanced life, a goal that may seem unachievable to dental students around the country. The Health and Wellness Club aims to supplement the school’s support by providing TUSDM students with the tools to take better care of themselves and make wellness not just an activity, but a lifestyle.
We organize classes such as spinning, dance, yoga, or bootcamps. We have a Facebook page on which students are welcome to share and communicate any helpful tips they have: whether they found a new juice bar or a discovered free pass to attend class at a local gym. On this page also share wellness-related articles and videos. In February of 2017, we organized the first official Women’s Health Awareness Discussion Group, and we hope that it will pave the way for the formation of many other kinds of discussion groups in which students can seek a space to feel safe, understood, and connected to their classmates.
The Health and Wellness Club’s positive influence isn’t limited to Tufts dental students. We also have an Instagram (@healthydentalstudents), on which one can find pictures of our students working on their school-life balance. Every week we feature pictures that our students share as long as they tag us and use #enamelstrong in the caption. Dr. Pastan, the Director of Mind-Body Wellness at TUSDM, shares recipes, photos, and inspirational messages as well. The purpose of this Instagram is to share with pre-professional students across the country that Tufts is paving the way for a shift in how health is prioritized by dental students. Hopefully, we will inspire them to follow suit.
Dr. Christina DiBona Pastan
Christina DiBona Pastan is an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Endodontics and the Director of Mind-Body Wellness at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. Dr. Pastan graduated from TUSDM in 1991 and earned her certificate in endodontics from the TUSDM PG Endodontics program in 1994. She has been a volunteer clinical instructor in the department of endodontics for the past 25 years. In July 2015, Dr. Pastan became the school’s first Director of Mind-Body Wellness. A long time practitioner of yoga and meditation, Dr. Pastan began teaching self regulation breathing skills to her endodontic residents and through that experience saw a hole that she felt needed to be filled in the dental school curriculum. As a result, Dr. Pastan pursued a professional training in yoga and meditation from the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and is a 300 hour certified yoga and meditation teacher.
Dr. Pastan teaches self-regulation skills to the TUSDM entering first year students in a mandatory wellness course that she runs during the first 3 weeks of their training. She continues to teach these skills throughout our dental students four years and in the post graduate programs in different clinical courses; seminars and workshops as well as guiding a weekly drop-in meditation and yoga class that is also open to faculty and staff. Dr. Pastan is the chair of the TUSDM Health and Wellness Committee and works closely with the administration and selected students and staff to develop a culture of wellness that supports the students, faculty and staff and ultimately affects patient care.
Dr. Pastan speaks nationally on the topics of meditation, yoga and self-regulation skills and their importance to the dental health care professional.