Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
I read with great interest the editorial by David Sklar1 and the other articles devoted to clinician well-being in the September 2016 issue of Academic Medicine. There is no doubt that physician burnout and suicide remain major problems. Although attempts to improve wellness through mindfulness and other techniques are important in combating these problems, they are only part of the solution.
Our profession continues to perpetuate the image of the model physician being superhuman, willing to sacrifice everything for medicine—a goal at odds with optimal physical and mental well-being. Over time, these sacrifices take their toll on physicians2–4 and on our patients.5
Doctors, like all health professionals, are humans with human needs. Until we promulgate role models who exemplify physical and mental well-being (rather than complete self-sacrifice), our profession will continue to be plagued by burnout, depression, and suicide.
Jeffrey M. Taekman, MD
Professor of anesthesiology, assistant dean for educational technology, and director, Human Simulation and Patient Safety Center, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, and fellow, integrative medicine, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona; firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Sklar DP. Fostering student, resident, and faculty wellness to produce healthy doctors and a healthy population. Acad Med. 2016;91:1185–1188.
2. Mata DA, Ramos MA, Bansal N, et al. Prevalence of depression and depressive symptoms among resident physicians: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2015;314:2373–2383.
3. McCue JD. The effects of stress on physicians and their medical practice. N Engl J Med. 1982;306:458–463.
4. Krasner MS, Epstein RM, Beckman H, et al. Association of an educational program in mindful communication with burnout, empathy, and attitudes among primary care physicians. JAMA. 2009;302:1284–1293.
5. Shanafelt TD, Bradley KA, Wipf JE, Back AL. Burnout and self-reported patient care in an internal medicine residency program. Ann Intern Med. 2002;136:358–367.