Recognizing the mental health challenges physicians may be facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is funding a data-driven research initiative to investigate their wellness.
“Physician health and wellness is a growing concern in this country. This is a top priority for the CMA, and this research will help fill the gap in wellness data and will lead to the development of programs and initiatives to improve physician health.” – Dr. Ann Collins, CMA president.
The CMA contributed $420,000 to the initiative dubbed Health Evaluation and Liveliness for Physicians through Meaningful Data, or HELP MD.
“The proverb ‘Physician, heal thyself’ reminds us to take care of our own needs so that we are able to care for others,” says Dr. Peter Tanuseputro, a physician-scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and ICES (formerly the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences). “This is a passion project that Dr. Manish Sood and I have been working towards for the past three years. As doctors ourselves, we have seen how much our own health can affect our practice. As researchers, we wanted to figure out how to help.”
The team—from The Ottawa Hospital, the Bruyère Research Institute, and the University of Ottawa—will use the largest population-level physician health database in North America by linking anonymized data from more than 50,000 Ontario physicians to vast health databases at ICES.
The CMA is funding two studies. The first will examine the mental health of Ontario physicians, focusing on rates of suicide, attempted suicide and self-harm. The second study will probe how physicians interact with their own doctors and how often they visit them to seek medical care.
A third project, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), will examine how COVID-19 is affecting physician mental health.
“There is a lot of stigma in the medical profession when it comes to mental health and accessing services. We hope that our work with HELP MD will not only continue some very important conversations on physician health and wellness, but will also provide concrete evidence as to where there are risks, and how we can better help our colleagues and in turn their patients.” - Dr. Manish Sood, physician-scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and adjunct scientist at ICES
The funding for this research is part of the CMA’s broader commitment to physician health and wellness. Last week, the CMA launched the Physician Wellness Hub: a searchable, online resource for toolkits, research, articles and data about physician wellness, to enable individual and system level change. It follows the Wellness Connection, which offers virtual group support sessions; and the Wellness Support Line, which offers immediate and confidential support and counselling.