Most of the physician executives I have met during my first year as publisher of Modern Physician have found ways to avoid or overcome the creeping funk burdening the medical profession.
It's sad listening to physicians who have lost their professional zest. But it's not uncommon to encounter disenchanted doctors who are angry and frustrated by paperwork hassles, spiraling malpractice premiums, pinched reimbursements, regulatory red tape and unrealistic patient expectations. They no longer seem to enjoy practicing medicine and certainly don't encourage others to follow in their footsteps. Some have even prematurely left medicine for early retirement or less stressful careers.
But successful physician executives (i.e. Modern Physician readers) are too busy, committed and focused to take part in the pity party. And rather than stick to the script of caring for patients, they also have taken on management responsibilities, challenges and headaches.
Many also have become active in the American College of Physician Executives, the Health Management Academy, the American Association of Ambulatory Surgery Centers and other organizations of fellow travelers. Bonding has helped these physician executives sidestep the malaise.
Leveraging clinical skills and stepping into management or entrepreneurial opportunities is a rigorous process, but it's hardly the end of the line. For the truly gifted, the next logical step would be using their leadership skills to rejuvenate the spirit of disenchanted doctors and assist in rebuilding the profession's bruised image.
Physician bellyaching has helped create a situation where some of the best and brightest students are rejecting the idea of medical school. Medical school applications have seen an alarming decline. Last year's applicant pool was less than 35,000, a 6% decline from 2000. It once was common for medical schools to accept only one of every four applicants. Today's ratio is two applicants for each slot.
Physician executives should take a lead role in emphasizing why medicine remains among the most noble and gratifying of professions.
Jordan Cohen, M.D., president of the Association of American Medical Colleges says the attraction remains strong because of "breathtaking science and the power of new information technology to improve the quality of healthcare."
Modern Physician readers have an excellent grasp of healthcare reality, accepting that medicine has become a sophisticated business while vowing to work within the system to fix problems.
Would you want your son or daughter to enter a profession that requires years of post-graduate education, mandates an exhausting apprenticeship program and leaves newly minted doctors $100,000 in debt before their first plunge into the working world? I'd wager most Modern Physician readers would answer yes.