As I sat down to reflect on this edition of Medicine Matters, I wanted to discuss something weighing on my mind, and I suspect many of your minds as well. Many of you are probably aware of a recent article in the New York Times highlighting the demoralizing effect of our healthcare system on providers. One report, cited in the article, estimated that in 2021 alone, about 117,000 physicians left the workforce, while fewer than 40,000 joined it. This situation has worsened a chronic physician shortage, leaving many hospitals and clinics struggling. The article makes the cogent point that dwindling faith in the system we work in significantly contributes to feeling unfulfilled. This is true for all providers. Left unchecked, some have said that we are witnessing the slow death of American medical ideology. The tensions between our attempts to treat illness and promote health and the realities of the complex social determinants of health, and the inequalities that are pervasive in our society are very real and visible in our clinics and wards. The political divide and rhetoric do little to solve the issues we face when trying to give patients the best care possible.
Now, I wish I could follow this with a list of solutions we could implement tomorrow. I cannot. However, I want to stress the sound foundation that we rest upon and can use to build answers. First, we are a caring profession. Our values are fundamentally focused on helping others- that is unassailable. By focusing on our mission, we can further the dialogue and foster change. We should be leading this discussion. Second, we have tremendous skills that can be brought forward in challenging times to solve problems. We witnessed this during the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have the will, energy and determination to solve issues. We do this every day with great success. I welcome your thoughts on how we can work together to foster change. I know we can do this! Let’s move from being demoralized to being empowered.
With best wishes,
Mitchell H. Rosner, MD, MACP
Henry B. Mulholland Professor of Medicine
Chair, Department of Medicine
Filed Under: Message from the Chair