Asian Professional Student Wellness: A Novel,
Community-Driven Assessment and Resource Mapping Toolkit

An Abstract by Vivian Lou, Bright Zhou, Richard Liang, Davis Chhoa, and Ruchita Pendse

The Stanford University School of Medicine

Background

Asian professional students in the US navigate complex intersections balancing multicultural identities and academic pressures. The COVID-19 pandemic has further driven isolation within and racial discrimination against Asian Pacific Islander communities. In order to understand the unique mental wellbeing needs of Asian professional students during the early COVID-19 pandemic, the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA) chapter at Stanford University School of Medicine launched a wellness initiative. The wellness initiative combined a community-driven needs assessment and resource mapping to support and identify unique obstacles facing our own Asian professional student body during COVID-19.

 

Methods

In May 2020, Stanford APAMSA leaders performed a systematic review of campus mental health resources through interviews with health services and campus cultural center administrators, student wellness leaders in the medical, law, and business schools, and other key stakeholders. Eight participants (all East and South Asian-identified medical and physician assistant students) were then recruited for a one-hour virtual “APAMSA Wellness” needs assessment through internal listserv emails. Senior group leaders facilitated discussion using PollEv word clouds, guiding questions, and resource map dissemination. Major themes from this needs assessment were summarized into a guide for student leaders to facilitate future wellness events, which together with the resource map, comprised the Asian Professional Student Wellness Toolkit.

 

Results

Community resource mapping identified existing wellness resources as mental health and counselling services, educational video modules, and workshops on diverse topics in wellbeing. During the needs assessment, participants reported feeling “exhausted”, “nervous”, and “frustrated” through a PollEv word cloud. Additional themes that emerged from facilitated discussion included somatization of  symptoms (physical responses to stressors), toxic productivity (overworking as a coping mechanism), visibility (viewing oneself in the context of the larger community rather than as an individual), and catastrophization (assuming worst outcomes). The combined results of the Asian Professional Student Wellness Toolkit were ultimately utilized by new APAMSA leaders and peer professional organizations, published to the campus cultural center website, and disseminated across the national APAMSA network by September 2020. 

 

Next Steps

Our student-initiated wellness toolkit uniquely integrates Community Based Participatory Research with Community Resource Mapping methodologies to facilitate supportive community-building among pandemic-stressed students. Future work aims to expand the resource map to include other institutions and non-campus affiliated community resources, expand upon facilitator guides, and continue building a living toolkit based on newly identified student concerns.