Two passionate well-being advocates will lead The University of Rochester Medical Center’s first institution-wide Wellbeing office, using their complementary skills and backgrounds to improve the work and study environment for clinicians, staff, and learners.
S. Craig Rooney, PhD, who helped build a successful wellness program at the University of Missouri’s School of Medicine, will serve as URMC’s inaugural Chief Wellbeing Officer (CWO) beginning in February 2024. Jessica Shand, MD, who has led URMC’s Medical Faculty and Clinician Wellness Program since 2022, will serve as associate CWO.
Together, they will spearhead efforts to advance professional fulfillment, health, and wellbeing across URMC’s clinical, education, and research missions. In a sign of the importance placed on the role, Rooney will serve as a URMC vice president and will report directly to CEO Mark Taubman, MD.
“Dr. Rooney and Dr. Shand will make a formidable team, and the opportunity to put it in place is one we could not pass up,” Taubman said. “We created these positions to ensure that wellbeing considerations are an integral part of everything we do and every decision we make. Drs. Rooney and Shand are the right people to fulfill that vision by proactively addressing areas of concern and driving changes across our system to improve the wellbeing of providers, staff and learners. Our employees devote their careers to caring for others; we have an institutional obligation to care for them.”
Rooney was hired following a national search and will move to Rochester with his husband, Nathan, and their dog, Ivy. The partnership with Shand recognizes her passion for caring for her colleagues and the valuable work she has done here.
“We’re bringing together two phenomenal wellbeing advocates in Drs. Rooney and Shand, and we know they will achieve phenomenal results,” said URMFG Michael Rotondo, MD, who chaired the search committee. “As always, it’s deeply heartening to see the caliber of the people who want to make our institution their home, and I’m grateful to the search committee members for their work. I’m eager to see the impact this Wellbeing leadership team will have here.”
Rooney, who will also serve as associate professor of Psychiatry pending Provost’s Office approval, said he was drawn to URMC by its spirit of innovation, by the energy of the people he has interacted with here, and by its collaborative decision-making processes.
“Dr. Shand and I share a vision to empower individuals to remove or diminish barriers to their professional fulfillment and wellbeing and to partner with them in this process,” he said. “We want to help create a work environment in which every person feels valued and safe – one in which they know that they matter. And, of course, we want to assist in making sure that everyone at URMC has access to the meaningful wellness and wellbeing services they need to feel good in their work.”
Shand and Rooney said wellness is a larger issue than one leader can take on alone.
“To me, one of the exciting things about our new partnership is that it represents institutional recognition of that fact,” Shand said. “It shows our organization is ready for needed change. Together Dr. Rooney and I will be able to take our existing wellbeing efforts to the next level and build bold new initiatives. That’s an exciting prospect for me, and for URMC as a whole.”
The Work Ahead
In the coming year, Rooney and Shand hope to achieve several goals, including articulating a strategic plan for wellbeing, putting in place a strong team, and establishing partnerships with URMC’s equity and inclusion efforts. Additionally, they’ll begin to map out a comprehensive data-driven approach to problem solving, organize existing well-being initiatives under a common plan, and advance wellbeing scholarship and research programs.
“I hope our colleagues will know our team hears them, takes them seriously, and works hard to solve problems,” Rooney said. “Also, we will be working hard to lessen the impact of those things we cannot control.”
Rooney’s background includes private practice as a psychologist, collegiate health, and work at an academic health center. For the past four years, he has served as director of psychological services and wellbeing for the MU School of Medicine and MU Health Care, working in partnership with its CWO to establish a robust program. Prior to that, he served as assistant director of the MU Counseling Center and as assistant director for Mental Health Services at the MU Student Health Center.
Rooney will draw on his experience at the University of Missouri as he moves forward. Programs he helped to spearhead there include targeted burnout interventions and tool kits, training on how to respond to misbehavior and discrimination, short-term counseling offerings, and a physician leadership development academy.
“Hospitals and health centers have famously been called ‘the most complex form of human organization we have ever attempted to manage,’” Rooney said. “If you think about the number of stakeholders, influences, regulatory bodies, and market forces, this might well be true. My experience building an academic health well-being program from the ground up will be useful at URMC because I understand how to get things done within such a complex environment. I have found that trustworthiness, transparency, inclusion, collaboration, and humility go a long way.”
Shand, a pediatrician, has been with URMC since 2013 and serves as associate professor of Pediatrics, Health Humanities, and Bioethics. She began working on wellness issues at the grassroots level in the Department of Pediatrics before joining the Medical Faculty and Clinician Wellness Program.