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Canadian physician health achievements showcased

The work of the Canadian Physician Health Institute (CPHI) to foster physician health and well-being was showcased here during one of the final sessions at the International Conference on Physician Health in London, UK.

“I’m blown away by how much further ahead you are,” an Albuquerque, New Mexico, physician in the audience commented after the presentation by CPHI representatives Dr. Derek Puddester and Christopher Simon.

Canada, long acknowledged as a leader in providing support for physicians in need of assistance, has also pioneered research into physician health and well-being and the link between physician health and patient outcomes.

“It’s an exciting time to be in this discipline,” said Dr. Erica Frank, Canada Research Chair in Preventive Medicine and Population Health and professor in the School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, who was principal investigator for the 2008 baseline Canadian Physician Health Study quoted during the presentation.

In contrast to speakers from the United Kingdom who talked about the many challenges physicians face in dealing with what one described as a “toxic” work environment within the National Health System, Puddester and Simon outlined the broad scope of programs and strategies to maintain and improve physician health and well-being in Canada.

“We’re planning to change (physician) culture across the country,” said Puddester.

CPHI was formed three years ago as a national program governed by the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Medical Foundation and the provincial and territorial medical associations to promote physician health and wellness.

Puddester acknowledged the “richness and diversity” of physician health programs across Canada, and said one of the CPHI’s achievements had been to create and implement a shared national vision for physician health.

Other CPHI achievements referenced were:

  • building greater awareness of PHPs
  • working to support creating national standards for PHPs
  • helping eliminate the stigma associated with physician illness through initiatives such as the ‘Doctors Oath’
  • developing global leadership and expertise in physician health research and education
  • helping support special projects such as the first national survey of medical student health and well-being, being conducted by students
  • developing a series of podcasts on physician health

“CPHI mirrors the strength of the physician health community — the future is full of potential for patients, providers and communities,” Puddester and Simon noted in their concluding slide.

Presented during the same session was work by Drs. Connie Ruffo and Laura Kelly, who shared their seven-year experience with community-based physician health programs in White Rock and Maple Ridge, BC.

Their group – Physicians Advocating Wellness – used social and educational programs to build a better sense of community in their regions. They said feedback from physician leaders indicated the work had been very successful.

“Physician health became an accepted part of the community,” Kelly said.

At the closing ceremonies, Puddester invited all delegates to plan to attend the Canadian Conference on Physician Health, scheduled for October 15-16, 2015 in Winnipeg, MB, and noted that the Australian conference on physician health will take place at the same time.

CMA President Chris Simpson mentioned the success of the twitter feed at the meeting, and the fact there were 6.9 million impressions from tweets using the meeting hashtag #icph2014.

“I would ask you to think about that potential reach and harness the power of social media, and make physician health part of our everyday language.”

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