Community mental health a top priority for new Dartmouth president

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 5:09 PM EDT
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HANOVER, H.H. (WCAX) - The new president at Dartmouth College is looking to expand her senior staff with a position that focuses on the community’s well-being.

“We know that our young people are at a time of crisis around mental health and wellness and Dartmouth is not immune,” said Sian Leah Beilock, who took the reins of the Ivy League school this summer.

Factors likely playing a role in mental health, Beilock says, are the prevalence of social media and the lasting impacts of the pandemic. Because of that, the college is hiring a new chief health and wellness officer who will be a member of the president’s senior leadership team and act as an adviser on all health matters affecting students, faculty, and staff. “The idea that we have someone focused on health and wellness at my senior table who can think across the institution is just so important for students and faculty and staff success,” Beilock said.

Mental health was one of the topics addressed during this week’s “Connect with the CEO” broadcast at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. That organization is also focused on wellbeing not just for patients but those who care for them.

“Presenteeism versus absenteeism. When you think about which are people who are working but they are not really working to their top potential,” said Dartmouth Health CEO Dr. Joanne Conroy. She says there are many overlaps with the college, specifically in the areas of research and the college’s Geisel School of Medicine. “When they see the name Dartmouth they think of the impact of the community both from an intellectual perspective but also medical discoveries, new cures, access to great health care.”

The new chief health and wellness officer will spend time at both the medical center and the college. A continued partnership Beilock says is crucial for not only outcomes but also for sustaining a healthy workforce in the future. “It allows us not only to do great research but train the next generation of leaders, and leaders in health care -- that is one of the most important challenges of our time,” she said.

At the end of the month, the college will host the current and former U.S. surgeons general, focusing on the national mental health crisis and a new strategic plan to address student mental health issues on campus.

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