Post-traumatic Growth and Resilience among American Medical Students during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Cynthia Luo, Gabriel Santos-Malave, Kanako Taku, Craig Katz, Robert Yanagisawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant psychological impact on medical professionals, including medical students, many who have been caring for patients on the frontlines. Understanding how medical students perceive their stressful life experiences is important as the mental health of these future physicians directly impacts their ability to care for patients. We assessed for post-traumatic growth and resilience in the face of traumatic events among a cohort of medical students that attended a medical school located in an early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Between October 29, 2020 and December 1, 2020, medical students at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City were surveyed on various stressful life events, including COVID-19. We identified specific resilience behaviors, including establishing a supportive social network, relying on a moral compass, and using cognitive flexibility, that medical students commonly used to cope with traumatic experiences. Compared with students who perceived COVID-19 as their most stressful life event, students who perceived other events, such as family issues or serious illness, as most stressful experienced less COVID-related stress (t = -2.2, p =.03), greater posttraumatic growth (t = 4.3, p <.001), and demonstrated more resilient behaviors including establishing and nurturing a supportive social network (t = 2.2, p =.03), developing brain fitness (t = 2.2, p =.03), and finding meaning and purpose in things (t = 2.9, p =.006). This suggests that stressful experiences prior to or in parallel with COVID-19 encouraged posttraumatic growth and development of resilience behaviors that were protective to COVID-19-related stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-612
Number of pages14
JournalPsychiatric Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Medical professionals
  • Posttraumatic growth
  • Resilience


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