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The Changing Priorities Of A New Generation Of Physicians

Doctors are, famously, workaholics. That’s just the way it’s been forever, at least as far back as my memory goes. You work crazy hours in residency, you graduate and work like a dog to establish your practice or to become a partner in your practice, and then you live out your career working long hours because there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done. I remember, growing up in the ’80s, that my friends whose parents were doctors were latchkey kids whose dad (usually the dad, then) was never at home when we were hanging out in the rec room playing Atari.

Yeah, Atari. Look it up, kids.

Not much had changed by the time I went to medical school. There was recognition of the fact that burnout was an issue — that divorces, alcohol abuse and suicides were more common among physicians than in other professions. The unspoken implication was that being a doctor was difficult and stressful, which increased the risk of these consequences of an over-burdened professional life. These stresses were accepted as part of the turf, as a necessary part of “being a doctor.” It wasn’t optional, and indeed, most physician teachers that addressed the matter chose to sublimate it into a mark of nobility. Being a physician was a calling and a duty, and a physician must gladly subordinate his or her own happiness and well-being to the service of their flock.

But things have changed, or at least a slow shift is in progress. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

The Myth Of The Rich Doctor

This is my column in June’s EM News.

‘But you’re a rich doctor, right?’ Have you had that conversation? There’s a certain expectation of physicians, that we’re all just filthy rich, overflowing with boxes of cash tucked neatly away beneath our gilded beds.

When we were building our house, our builder talked with my wife: ‘Jan, I want you to meet me to look for counters and cabinets. Don’t bathe the kids. Put them in dirty play clothes and don’t wear anything nice. Don’t ever tell them your husband is a doctor.’ He’s a wise man. What he knew was that the word ‘doctor’ means ‘cash.’ Or at least, means ‘cash’ to the popular mind.

I wonder if this perception is the reason patients come to the emergency department and say things like this: ‘I don’t have any money to go to the dentist, so I came here.’ It’s the belief that we come to our jobs already in possession of large amounts of money. Granted, there are some physicians who come from wealthy families. The majority, however, do not. And no one does that to any other professional. ‘I’d like a house built to order, and I know you’re a rich contractor. I can’t pay you, so get to work! Or else I’ll sue!’

Nevertheless, from patients to insurers, real-estate agents to contractors, attorneys to government and hospital officials, the belief is straightforward. MD means ‘Mucho Denaro.’ Witness the hospital in Pennsylvania that recently began Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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