Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Vanishing Oath

Patricia Lindholm, MD,
2010-2011 MMA President
Recently I came across a documentary-style independent film written and directed by Ryan Flesher, M.D.  The title is “The Vanishing Oath” and is a story about Dr. Flesher’s journey through burnout and his personal examination of the causes of distress that lead physicians to leave the clinical practice of medicine.  Those of us in clinical practice know exactly what bothers him and others.  He also interviews physicians around the country who have left medicine and allows them to tell their stories.  Random people on the street are also interviewed about their take on physicians and medical care in general.  I thought this film would be depressing but it was not.  It is about an hour in length and is accessible to the general public.  It would be an excellent holiday gift to your favorite insurance company CEO, malpractice attorney or legislator.  Check it out.  I believe I ordered it from Amazon.

The Vanishing Oath (excerpt) from Lisa Molomot on Vimeo.

Another very interesting book that I am almost done reading is titled Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness, Only More So, by Mark Vonnegut, M.D.  (Yes, he is the son of Kurt Vonnegut.)  Dr. Vonnegut experienced several psychotic breaks during his young adult years and was initially diagnosed with schizophrenia.  He actually has bipolar disorder and is a practicing pediatrician who trained at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.  It is fascinating to see a first person account of serious mental illness from a successful practicing physician and teacher.  He also mentions many of the same frustrations noted in “The Vanishing Oath.”  Yes, he is one of us. 

It is comforting to see that the “elephants in the room” of medicine are exposed and acknowledged publicly by two articulate and courageous doctors.  Both of these works are enlightening to anyone with an interest in the sociology of medicine.  They might also be appropriate gifts to relatives who wonder why physicians need to attend to their wellbeing now more than ever.

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