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Wellness Program

The goal of UC Irvine School of Medicine's Wellness Program is to help students to cope with the unique challenges they face in medical school.

According to a recent study, students enter medical school with mental health profiles similar to their peers from college. But as they progress, they begin to show higher rates of mental distress.

Many studies examining U.S. medical schools have shown that medical students have significantly higher levels of anxiety, depression and substance abuse.

Recognizing this, UC Irvine School of Medicine's Wellness Program has created several avenues to promote wellness in ways that may fit your particular needs.

We offer:

  • Individual counseling with a psychiatrist on site
  • Individual therapy and therapy groups through the student counseling center
  • Group meetings with peers every three months
  • A wellness workshop at the annual Student-Faculty Retreat
  • A mentorship program that enlists older students to mentor younger students
  • A wellness committee of medical students formed to address mental, physical and spiritual health at our school

We want to connect you with the resources you need on your path through medical school.

Individual Counseling Options »


We offer two main routes for individual counseling.

  • An on-site program in the Medical Education Building, where students can make appointments. Individual counseling and psychiatric medication management are available.
  • Individual or group therapy is also available through the UC Irvine Student Counseling Center.

Whom to contact

Anju Hurria, MD, MPH, is the director of the School of Medicine's Wellness Program. She is a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist who offers completely confidential counseling services to UC Irvine medical students.

She can be reached via email at ahurria@uci.edu and at 714-456-7473.

If you do not want to be seen by someone who works at UC Irvine, you may still contact her for an outside referral.

The most important thing is that you reach out for help when you need it.

When and where 

Dr. Hurria sees students on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Room 3113 of the Medical Education Building, Building 836, on the UC Irvine campus.

You may also schedule a meeting with her during the lunch hour or evenings at the Neuropsychiatric Center at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange.

Counseling Center

You may also seek help at the UC Irvine Counseling Center, located at 203 Student Services I on the Irvine campus. The counseling center is staffed by psychologists, social workers and two psychiatrists.

The center's website is www.counseling.uci.edu and the phone number is 949-824-6457.

Reasons to Seek Counseling »


There are many reasons a medical student may want to consider counseling. They may include:

  • Abusive relationships
  • Academic performance
  • Alcohol/substance use/abuse
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Body image concerns
  • Career planning worries
  • Depression
  • Family issues
  • Friend issues
  • Loneliness/isolation
  • Relationship issues
  • Roommate conflicts
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Sexual orientation/gender identity
  • Sexual assault/rape
  • Sleep problems
  • Stress

Treatment options available onsite

  • Career planning
  • Conflict resolution
  • Individual therapy for coping skills
  • Medication management
  • Processing a difficult or sad patient interaction
  • Psychoeducation
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Stress management
  • Supportive counseling
  • Training in deep breathing, meditation and progressive muscle relation
Confidentiality »


Be assured that everything you discuss — even the fact that you have an appointment — is fully confidential and will not be disclosed to anyone, including UC Irvine medical school administrators.

The only time that reporting of mental health information is mandatory is when someone is expressing the desire to harm to himself or herself or someone else.

There is a separate entrance and exit to Room 3113 of the Medical Education Building, so that people who are waiting will not see you.

Costs »


Each medical student is allowed three (3) free appointments a year to determine his or her need for counseling — or simply to check in.

If you are in need of long-term, ongoing treatment, health insurance can be used for additional care. If you have the student health insurance, you will need a referral from the UC Irvine Student Health Center to be seen for long-term therapy and medication management.

Services at the UC Irvine Counseling Center are free and are not associated with health insurance coverage. These services are available to all registered UC Irvine students.

Annual Wellness Retreat »


The yearly retreat takes place at Lake Arrowhead in the nearby San Bernardino mountains. All UC Irvine medical students are invited to attend.

Activities at the retreat include:

  • Multidisciplinary academic/occupational workshops
  • Team-building exercises
  • Large group competitive activity

There are also social activities, including dancing with a DJ, as well as plenty of free time to relax.

Group Therapy »


A process group involves students gathering together to sit in a circle. Individuals are encouraged to bring up problems or issues they are dealing with to seek peer support and possible solutions.

Each year, we offer four process group sessions per class year, for students to interact.

The cardinal rule of the process group: Whatever is shared in the group, stays in the group.

Process group goals

There are two goals we aim to achieve with each process group:

  • First, the group activity helps students to feel less isolated and to learn that they are coping with the same issues as many other students in their class.
  • The second goal is to promote a culture where we openly support each other and care about each other's mental health. Physicians often feel a stigma about sharing their struggles, which creates a cycle of isolation and shame — a cycle we want to help you break.

Julianne Toohey, MD, associate dean of Student Affairs, will join the group for the last 10 minutes of each session to assist with any remaining issues or concerns.

Group topics

Process group topics are not set, but general themes are raised.

  • Year 1 — Topics include transitioning to medical school, managing relationships in medical school, stress reduction techniques and feelings about dissecting a body in anatomy.
  • Year 2 — Topics include strategies for staying healthy in the second year, dealing with burnout, test anxiety for Step 1 and fears about third year.
  • Year 3 — Topics include how to get feedback, reflection on patient experiences, reflection on professional interactions and choosing a residency.  
  • Year 4 — Topics include reflection on patient experiences, how to pick the right residency for you, anxiety about being a resident, and closing thoughts on medical school.
Mentoring »


The mentorship program is designed to encourage medical students to reach out to their peers for advice and perspective.

First-year and second-year medical students are paired with third-year and fourth-year students. We encouraged students to reach out to their mentors whenever they are feeling confused, lost or in need of help.

Additionally, the mentors are charged with reaching out to their mentees at least once per quarter. Mentors are a great source of information about career planning and life advice.

Please contact students serving on the Wellness Committee to connect with a mentor.

Treatment Resources »

Meditation/Relaxation Techniques

Roger Walsh, a UC Irvine professor of psychiatry, philosophy and anthropology, as well as a professor in the religious studies program, has compiled audio clips of guided meditations and relaxation techniques. You can find them on his website, http://www.drrogerwalsh.com ›

UC Irvine also has an extensive audio/video library that includes guides for breathing exercises, mediations, physical exercises and much more. Find these videos at http://www.wellness.uci.edu/audiovideo.html ›

Other sources

Mood Gym, an online workbook based on the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy, is also an excellent resource you can use at home. Developed for medical interns, Mood Gym provides tools to cope with depression and anxiety. Find Mood Gym at https://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome ›

There also are some iPhone apps that many people find beneficial. These include:

  • Head Space, an app that focuses on teaching meditation and mindfulness in 10 minutes a day 
  • Moodkit, an app developed by psychologists to help improve mood
'Do I Have Depression or Anxiety?' »


Are you uncertain whether or not you want to reach out for help?

The screening tools below may be useful to help you decide.

The Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) questionnaire and Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) are short surveys that ask you about thoughts and feelings you have been having during the previous two weeks.

It is important to note that these surveys should be used only as tools that can help you assess whether you are having symptoms of anxiety or depression. Even if you scored 0 on these tests, you may still feel like you want to talk to a counselor. If so, you should absolutely reach out and make an appointment. Hopefully these tools can help you to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

View and download the GAD-7 ›

View and download the PHQ-9 ›

Interpreting your results

You can interpret your score on the GAD-7 as follows:

  • If you scored 0-4, your anxiety severity is none to minimal.
  • If you scored 5-9, you have mild anxiety.
  • If you scored 10-14, you have moderate anxiety.
  • If you scored 15 or higher, you have severe anxiety.

If you scored above 4, it would be beneficial for you to speak with a counselor.

The table below can be used as a guideline to interpret your score on the PHQ-9, which assesses depression. If you score above 4, it would be beneficial for you to speak with a counselor.

PHQ-9 Score Depression Severity Proposed Treatment
0-4 None-minimal None
5-9 Mild Watchful waiting; repeat PHQ-9 at follow-up.
10-14 Moderate Treatment plan: Consider counseling, follow-up and/or pharmacotherapy.
15-19 Moderately Severe Active treatment with pharmacotherapy and/or psychotherapy.
20-27 Severe Immediate initiation of pharmacotherapy and, if severe impairment or poor response to therapy, expedited referral to a mental-health specialist for psychotherapy and/or collaborative management.

Table is from Kroenke K, Spitzer RL, Psychiatric Annals 2002;32:509-521

Additional Resources »


Here are additional resources you may want to contact for more information and support: