The sudden death of a Canadian medical resident before the launch of the third Canadian Conference on Physician Health (CCPH) served as a poignant reminder of the importance of the work being done by the physicians who attended the meeting.
CMA Past President Anna Reid led the almost 250 attendees at the Calgary meeting in a moment's silence to honour the resident and other physicians who have succumbed to the pressures that accompany medical practice.
"Remember, you are in a room of support," Dr. Derek Puddester, director of physician health for the Canadian Physician Health Institute, a national program of the CMA and CMF, and co-chair of the conference, said in acknowledging the resident's suicide. "This is our house, this is our community, this is our tribe. We support each other because that is what we do best."
The theme of the meeting, which is held every two years, was "harnessing wisdom across generations to promote physician health," and much of the discussion focused on enhancing health in the medical education system as well as in bringing forward intergenerational perspectives to improve physician health and the workplace culture.
The opening plenary speaker, psychiatrist Michael Myers, noted the many important innovations Canada has brought to the physician health field. Myers, a pioneer in the field in Canada who is now vice-chair of education and training in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the SUNY-Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, also acknowledged the ongoing challenges medicine faces in recognizing and treating physicians who have mental health problems.
Speaking on behalf of the Canadian Medical Foundation, Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai - a CMA past president and the foundation's current chair - noted that despite the strong network of physician health programs across Canada, access to resources varies and many doctors remain unaware of the help that is available to them.
"Much more needs to be done to ensure access to quality programs," she said.
The interface between mental health and behaviour was discussed during a plenary session on ways to address the issue of disruptive behaviour by physicians throughout the career cycle. The session made extensive use of recent work in this area by the Canadian Medical Protective Association.
In his closing remarks, CMA President Louis Hugo Francescutti stressed the need for physicians to care for both themselves and their colleagues. He also said the CMA remains committed to supporting physician health initiatives.
The conference was presented by the Canadian Physician Health Institute and co-hosted with the Alberta Medical Association (AMA) and the AMA Physician and Family Support Program.