Lessons on wellness and leadership

Melanie Lewis, recently recognized with an Excellence in Leadership Award, shares advice for self-care and takeaways from leading the Office of Advocacy and Wellbeing.

Laura Vega - 03 December 2020

When learners at the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry are asked about their favourite mentors or their sources of support throughout their program, the name Melanie Lewis comes up frequently. The associate dean of advocacy and wellbeing and professor of pediatrics created the Office of Advocacy and Wellbeing (OAW)—initially known as the Office of Learner Advocacy and Wellness—in 2011, looking to support students’ and residents’ physical and mental health and advocate on their behalf so they could better focus on their studies.

Over the years, Lewis and her team have provided counselling on academic and personal matters; encouraged wellness-related activities; and provided a supporting environment during learners’ difficult times and key moments of their careers, such as the CaRMS match process and the COVID-19 pandemic. The OAW was recently renamed to reflect its expanded services toward supporting the well-being of faculty members as well. Thanks to this valuable resource, which promotes a balanced and healthy life for health professionals, Lewis’ leadership has been recognized nationally and internationally.

Lewis was presented with an Excellence in Leadership Award at the U of A’s virtual Celebration of Service on Dec. 1. To celebrate, she shares some wellness advice for all members of the faculty, and reflects on the most important leadership lessons from her time with the OAW:

Wellness wisdom for 2020

  1. Self compassion
    Be kind to yourself; stop listening to your harsh inner critic.
  2. Don't ruminate on the past
    Embrace your mistakes, and keep moving forward.
  3. If someone doesn't know you personally, don't take their remarks personally.
  4. Always default to giving those around you the benefit of the doubt
    We all carry heavy burdens—that might not be evident.

Melanie Lewis: What I have learned about leadership

  1. Leverage/deploy the talent that surrounds you.
  2. Leadership is a partnership, not a hierarchy.
  3. I am a better person, a better leader and a better teacher because of the talent that surrounds and nourishes me—this includes (but is not limited to) students, administrative staff and my colleagues.