To counter the effects of physical isolation required by the COVID-19 pandemic, a medical student approached the Wellness Advisory Council at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine with an idea. How about a challenge to get students currently scattered across the country to connect virtually and count their miles as they walk, run, bike or swim?
The council embraced the idea, and so did UM residents and faculty who also joined the “Miller May 100” challenge.
The official goal was to log a total of 100 miles during May. Participants received one entry in a raffle for each 10 miles they logged. Everyone who logged at least one mile in the wellness initiative will also receive a T-shirt with a design inspired by student ideas.
“Cristina Garcia, our assistant director of career services and wellness in our Office of Student Services, along with our Wellness Advisory Council and student leaders, led an extraordinarily successful wellness challenge,” said Hilit F. Mechaber, M.D., associate dean for student services and associate professor of medicine.
“It was a great effort and a great collaboration. We had 185 participants – students, faculty, residents, and staff – and over 13,600 miles logged in May,” added Dr. Mechaber.
“We decided to keep it at 100 miles to keep it achievable, while still giving people who wanted to do 10 miles access to the raffle,” said Cristina Garcia, M.B.A. “It was a really great way to keep everybody moving and staying connected. People also were able to post pictures. I really liked that part because you got to see a lot of the students running, biking, and stopping at all these cool places.
“It wasn’t really competitive – it was more about camaraderie,” she said.
Miller medical student Elisa Karhu agreed. The idea, she said, was “to bring us ’Canes together during this time that we are physically apart. It ended up being a great way to get everyone active during quarantine when their normal routines were lost. I was happy to see so many people motivating and encouraging each other.”
“One hundred miles in one month seemed out of reach, but that's what made it worth working toward,” said Melissa Huberman, another medical student who participated. “During a time when many other markers of life and productivity were disrupted, I am glad I was able to use this challenge for some normalcy and routine.”
Huberman, who did ultimately run 100 miles in May, said the Miami May 100 challenge helped her reach other personal running goals, including “one of my longest runs ever and most consecutive days run ever.”
Student Christine Nunez loved it too. “It was unbelievable to see the participation across the board – from incoming MS1s to fellows and faculty. I even found myself personally driven to reach the 100-mile mark, something I had never done before.”
“As physicians, we have the distinct responsibility of inspiring our patients, families, and friends to achieve their best possible physical and mental health,” Austin Wyant said. “With all the miles my colleagues completed, I’m proud to see that the Miller School of Medicine is stepping up to lead and inspire our community to be more active in times of great adversity.”
The Miller May 100 “helped preserve the strong sense of community at UM” even during the pandemic shutdown, Marisa R. Carino Mason said. “It was fun monitoring the leader boards every week and watching everyone's mileage grow over the entire month. The May 100 challenge proved yet again how impressive my classmates and mentors are here at UM!”
In early June, Garcia conducted the raffle live on Instagram. The five grand prizes included three FitBit Charge 4 devices and two sets of wireless earbuds.
The success of the challenge has inspired similar plans for the future. “We’ve had students already ask if we’re going to do this again,” Garcia said. “I would love to do something in the fall, but we are definitely looking into making this an annual event.”