This demonstrates the urgent need for physicians all over the U.S. to practice leadership in our individual practices, in our hospitals, in our healthcare organizations and in the political process. Physicians hold a trust to protect the health of our patients. We cannot abdicate this sacred trust.
A 2006 poll by the American College of Physician Executives showed that 60% of physicians are considering leaving medicine due to low morale and lack of autonomy and status. We practice medicine in the context of Medicare reimbursements that don’t keep pace with the rate of inflation, a mountain of medical school debt (over $200,000 for some of my colleagues), the constant threat of litigation, and years of delayed gratification. (In my case, 17 years of higher education: four years of college, four years of medical school, seven years of general surgery training and two years of fellowship.) We’re feeling harried, hassled and harassed, and it can be tempting to fall into survival mode, to start thinking, “I worked hard to get here and therefore my self-interests deserve to come first.” We defend this thinking by saying, “No margin, no mission.” If doctors can’t afford to practice medicine, we argue, how can the patient be helped?