We are dedicated to cultivating and supporting the well-being of our surgeons through education and engagement.

Plastic Surgery team members in the operating room
Dr. Kwakye and Dr. Valbuena talking in conference room
Lab personnel working in the lab

Our Commitment

Michigan Medicine Department of Surgery is committed to cultivating the wellness of surgical faculty, residents, and medical students through awareness, education, resources, and a supportive environment. Surgeons, like many individuals in healthcare professions, work in environments where they encounter suffering on a daily basis. In the process of caring for patients, it is easy to lose sight of caring for oneself. The Department of Surgery Wellness Team, as part of the larger culture dedicated to the health and wellbeing of all members, is here for you. 

Please reach out if you have questions, are seeking resources, or need support. In addition, contact us if you would like to develop or contribute to wellness initiatives.

We partner with the Michigan Medicine Wellness Office, which offers a wide array of resources and events to support wellness across Michigan Medicine.

Department Programs & Initiatives

The Department of Surgery offers a variety of channels for faculty members, residents, fellows, and staff members to seek support or provide feedback around wellness in the department: 

  • Resident Wellness Committee: We have a dedicated group of residents who are committed to holistically addressing issues surrounding trainee wellness. Each member (also known as an ambassador) acts as a voice for fellow residents to raise concerns and suggest opportunities for improvement to program leadership. We have representatives from General Surgery as well as Integrated Subspecialty programs. This group meets monthly. 
  • Needs Assessments & Surveys: In order to create program-specific interventions, we are conducting regular anonymous needs assessment surveys on topics of wellness throughout the year. Information from these surveys is directly provided to the Vice Chair of Resident Professional Development to promote trainee voice.
  • Resident Ombudspersons: We have selected Department of Surgery resident ombudspersons outside of the standard surgical hierarchy who may be contacted for confidential discussions surrounding any issue pertaining to wellness. This person acts as a direct advocate on behalf of the trainee and has knowledge regarding various resources.
  • Wellness & Environment Resident Life Directors: The leadership team is tasked with leading efforts to understand the needs of the resident community and developing and implementing initiatives and programs to meet those needs.;
  • Michigan Action Progress System (MAPS): MAPS aims to provide informal, ad hoc, peer-to-peer education when addressing mistreatment or unprofessional behavior that has been reported to department MAPS representatives. 

COMPASS Peer Support Network 

The Department of Surgery COMPASS peer supporters are trained by the Office of Counseling and Workplace Resiliency to provide psychological first aid and emotional support from a place of shared experience. Peer supporters can assist colleagues through difficult experiences with patient care, stress and burnout, or any work-related concern. All conversations are strictly confidential, and any member of a care team can request peer support. If you are interested in learning more about COMPASS or becoming a peer supporter, please contact our COMPASS coordinator Julie Evans at danae@umich.edu.

Surgery COMPASS Peer Mentors 

  • Sharon Aronovich, DMD, FRDS: Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Faculty Member
  • Craig Brown, MD, MSc: General Surgery Resident
  • Kathryn Castorena: Thoracic Surgery Nurse Practitioner
  • Vlad Dolgachev: Medical School Research Associate Senior
  • Julie Evans: Surgical Education Research Associate Senior
  • Emily Guyton: Department of Surgery Human Resources
  • Kathleen Ignatoski: CBATS Reserach Area Specialist Senior-Compliance
  • Stephanie La Vigne: Transplant Surgery Section Administrator
  • Dimitra Lotakis, MD: Pediatric Surgery Fellow
  • Alisha Lussiez, MD, MS: General Surgery Resident
  • Stephanie Munz, DDS: OMFS Faculty Member
  • Erika Newman, MD: Pediatric Surgery Faculty Member
  • Bill Palazzolo: Department of Surgery Director of Clinical Operations
  • Laura Rivard: Department of Surgery Administrative Specialist
  • Gurjit Sandhu, PhD: Surgical Education Faculty Member
  • Pasithorn Suwanabol, MD: General Surgery Faculty Member
  • Christian Vercler, MD, MA: Plastic Surgery Faculty Member

Physical Wellness

The University Hospital South Wellness Center is an easily accessible onsite wellness center at UH South with a variety of physical activity equipment and services. All residents, as part of the Michigan Medicine house officer association agreement, are guaranteed acceptance of applications for membership to this facility. Additional wellness resources are available through the MHealthy initiative.

Please email Julie Evans, Department of Surgery Wellness Programming & Research Associate, at danae@med.umich.edu if you are a faculty member, trainee, or staff member at Michigan Medicine who would like to request access to the Department of Surgery wellness resource collection.

Contact Us

Gurjit Sandhu, PhD

Vice Chair of Resident Professional Development

Julie Evans

Wellness Programming & Research Associate