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Changing world challenges physician wellness: conference

The pervasive and uncontrollable nature of change and the challenges it poses to physician well-being was a dominant theme for opening speakers at the 2014 International Conference on Physician Health (ICPH) now underway in London, UK.

This was addressed directly by British Medical Association President Baroness Ilora Finlay, who referenced the Sept. 18 referendum on Scottish independence in her remarks to more than 300 delegates from 16 countries. She used the referendum as an example of titanic changes that can impact people but are outside their control.

Living with uncertainty is very difficult, she said, and people are increasingly turning to physicians — with unrealistic expectations for answers.

‘Transitions’ is the formal theme of the biennial meeting co-partnered by the American Medical Association, Canadian Medical Association and British Medical Association, and Finlay noted such transitions now occur constantly.

In his remarks, CMA President Chris Simpson stated: “This conference’s theme reminds us of how important it is to acknowledge the specific challenges inherent with each transition in the medical career.

“Just as transitions are important in the physician’s life cycle, we must acknowledge that, in a broader sense, health care systems also pass through phases, and addressing systemic challenges can help us come to grips with challenges affecting the health and well-being of physicians.”

Simpson added, “As the president of the CMA, one of my top priorities is to foster the well-being of Canada’s medical profession,” noting that the CMA’s ongoing support and commitment to the profession is clearly identified in its 2015-17 strategic plan. He also touched on his primary focus – advocating for a national plan on seniors care – and said presentations at the meeting on transitions involving senior physicians would help inform his thoughts in this area.

Simpson announced that he’s working with Queen’s University (Kingston, ON) researchers to allow them to assess the impact of a physician leadership role – namely that of CMA president – on his personal health. During this period, he said the researchers will be providing real-time feedback to help him maintain his own well-being.

“I will be baring my soul to the world,” he said, noting the research would be submitted for publication upon completion with the hope it will help inform physician wellness at all levels.

Simpson said this direct personal involvement supports the major goals of the Canadian Physician Health Institute, which is co-sponsored by the CMA and the Canadian Medical Foundation, particularly the goals of primary prevention and destigmatizing physician health issues.

The importance of physician health and well-being in supporting a strong health care system was noted by American Medical Association President Dr. Robert Wah in his address.

“If we don’t keep ourselves healthy we can’t keep others healthy.”

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