To the Editor:
It is the unfortunate nature of our profession that long work hours, pressure to succeed, difficult working conditions, and other frustrations often lead to fatigue and/or burnout, among both trainees and early-career physicians.1 I have often wondered if this is because we lose sight of why we pursued this calling in the first place. To remain grounded, it is imperative for us to have a mentality of leadership and service, and it is never too early for us to get involved in these activities.
Physicians, and even medical students, should be leaders in our communities, our schools, and our medical centers. We have the ethical responsibility to work to improve the lives of others, and our education puts us in the position to be able to do that in a number of ways, one of which is through leadership. Evidence shows that relatively little emphasis is placed on the development of leadership skills in medical curricula,2 but that need not deter us from taking advantage of the plethora of opportunities to lead at both the local and national level. Practice leads to improvement, if not to perfection.
Service is an equally important component in the life of a well-balanced medical student or early-career physician. Because community service is nearly a prerequisite for admission into medical schools, we have all been involved with it to a certain extent. However, many lose the desire to partake in such activities once it is no longer expected of them. This is a great loss for those in need but also for the student or physician, as participation in service has been shown to have a number of tangible and intangible benefits, including a direct correlation with improvement in school performance,3 service-related skills,4 and empathy.5
Involvement with service and leadership both requires and engenders selflessness. It provides a sense of perspective and humility. It gets me through the long days and keeps me optimistic. I believe that all who have been involved with such activities will share my sentiment. My challenge and encouragement to the physicians of the future is this: Do not become complacent. Lead, serve, and build others up.
Peter N. Mittwede
MD–PhD candidate, Class of 2016, and associated student body president, School of Medicine and Department of Physiology, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, Mississippi; email@example.com.
1. Dyrbye LN, West CP, Satele D, et al. Burnout among U.S. medical students, residents, and early career physicians relative to the general U.S. population. Acad Med. 2014;89:443–451
2. Abbas MR, Quince TA, Wood DF, Benson JA. Attitudes of medical students to medical leadership and management: A systematic review to inform curriculum development. BMC Med Educ. 2011;11:93
3. Blue AV, Geesey ME, Sheridan ME, Basco WT Jr.. Performance outcomes associated with medical school community service. Acad Med. 2006;81(10 suppl):S79–S82
4. Walker J, Hannibal K, Johnson ML, Davis RB, Forrow L. Health professional students in community service: Insights from trainees and their mentors. J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2010;21:1292–1303
5. Brazeau CM, Schroeder R, Rovi S, Boyd L. Relationship between medical student service and empathy. Acad Med. 2011;86(10 suppl):S42–S45