Tag Archives: wellness

Doctor Burnout: Part II

In response to the growing problem surrounding physician burnout–a national epidemic that impacts not only the health of medical practitioners, but also patient care–Stanford Medicine has hired a chief wellness officer.

In an unprecedented first move for a U.S. academic medical center, Tait Shanafelt, MD will lead Stanford Medicine’s pioneering program in the field. At a time when physician burnout “nationally has reached an all-time high,” Dr. Shanafelt will direct the WellMD Center at Stanford Medicine, while serving as associate dean.

Shanafelt has paved the field of wellness in medicine, overseeing multiple national surveys since 2008 that have included over 30,000 U.S. physicians, and 9,000 U.S. workers in other fields. The surveys have indicated increasing rates of burnout among doctors; in 2014, more than 50% of those surveyed were suffering from “emotional exhaustion, loss of meaning in work, or a sense of ineffectiveness and a lack of engagement with patients.” Shanafelt’s studies have confirmed that while physicians suffer, patients do also, as burnout leads to increased errors and increased rates of mortality among hospitalized patients.

Shanafelt has stated that the trend is “eroding the soul of medicine.” While many leaders in healthcare recognize that physician burnout is an imminent threat to their organizations, many do not know how to effectively address it. Shanafelt will work to build Stanford’s innovative WellMD Center, established in 2016, which has engaged more than 200 physicians through programs aimed at peer support, stress reduction, and a variety of ways to cultivate compassion and resilience. Furthermore, the center seeks to relieve some of the burden and pressure on physicians, through improving efficiency and simplifying workplace systems.

The conference will host the first American Conference on Physician Health in October, co-sponsored by the American Medical Association and the Mayo Clinic. This event will support opening up a national dialogue on the issue of physician burnout, while creating efforts to address physician distress through programs that promote “physician autonomy, efficiency, collegiality, and a sense of community.”

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Nutrition Education in Medical School

Recent statistics show that more than two-thirds of Americans are considered to be overweight or obese. With diabetes and obesity on the rise, in addition to spikes in other lifestyle-related diseases, it has become critical to highlight the necessity of self-care and healthy living habits. Yet while physicians are generally considered to be reliable sources regarding nutrition, more than 50% of graduating medical students continue to rate their knowledge as ‘inadequate,’ and only one in eight patients receives counseling from their doctors on dietary health benefits.

A study designed to quantify the required number of hours of nutrition education at U.S. medical schools, in addition to an investigation regarding the types of courses offered, reaffirmed the supposition that medical students receive an inadequate amount of nutrition education. Only 27% of surveyed schools required a course dedicated to nutrition; on average, U.S. medical schools only offer 19.6 hours of nutrition education—across four years of medical school.

A 2016 study in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health assessed the basic nutritional knowledge of fourth-year medical and osteopathic school graduates entering a pediatric residency program. On average, the incoming interns were only able to answer 52% of the 18 questions correctly. Marion Nestle, a renowned professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, chalks much of this up to the fact that there is a primary focus on treating–rather than preventing–diseases.

Throughout the past several decades, there has been a push towards improving the medical nutrition education that students receive. With suboptimal knowledge about dietary habits, future physicians are selling both themselves and their patients very short. It is imperative to equip health practitioners with the necessary tools and information that they can utilize in their practices, ultimately addressing the root causes of real, pervasive problems.

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“Fat But Fit”–No Such Luck

Medical scientists from the University of Birmingham are actively countering the theory that people can be simultaneously overweight and medically fit, presenting new research that reinforces that obese people are at a far greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease than people of a normal, healthy weight.

Researchers claim that the term ‘fat but fit’ is a fallacy that spurs the spread of obesity, a global public health epidemic. The study—presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Portugal—assesses the medical records of 3.5 million people in the United Kingdom between the years 1995 and 2015, in order to evaluate the legitimacy of the theory ‘fat but fit.’

Previous medical research suggests that obesity can have little impact on a person’s susceptibility to various harmful diseases, if they are considered to be otherwise medical healthy. Yet the research, which consistently tracked obese but “metabolically healthy” people, found that they were still at a significantly higher risk of developing diabetes and other heart-related conditions.

Specifically, the study found that obese people were 50 percent more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, and between 7 and 11 percent more likely to develop cerebrovascular disease and peripheral vascular disease. The United Kingdom’s largest funder of cardiovascular research, The British Heart Foundation, has stated that this research will help to dispel an ‘age-old myth.’

The data further estimates that approximately 28.1 percent of adults in the U.K. qualify as clinically obese, with a Body Mass Index greater than 30. In the United States, the statistics rise to approximately 66 percent.

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