Dr. Alistair MacDonald was still in medical school when his depression first took hold. “I’m usually an extroverted person, but I chose to just study and isolate myself. I didn’t know what was going on, I thought I was just tired all the time.” By the end of that year, he’d left medical school. “I blamed medical school for my depression, and I had no plans of going back.”
Yet with treatment, support and a good psychiatrist, Dr. MacDonald eventually returned to medicine. Today, he’s completing his residency, and speaks freely about his own wellness.
“The more I researched mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety, the more I realized how common it was in medicine, and I started to become more open about it,” explains Dr. MacDonald.
In recent years, attitudes and awareness about physician wellness have shifted. More and more physicians like Dr. MacDonald are speaking publicly about their personal struggles with wellness, minimizing the stigma and fear that often accompany the issue.
At the same time, there’s a growing body of evidence documenting wellness challenges in the medical profession. When the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) conducted the National Physician Health Survey back in 2017, more than one-third of doctors, residents and medical students reported burnout and depression at some point in their career.
This need, coupled with a new awareness, is what spurred the CMA to create the Physician Wellness Hub: a searchable, online resource for toolkits, research, articles and data about physician wellness.
Created and curated by the CMA’s physician health and medical culture team, its resources focus on individual and system level change — covering everything from day-to-day strategies physicians and medical learners can use to build resilience, to key factors affecting burnout, to how to start a hospital or clinic-based wellness program.
“The pandemic has put new pressures on physicians and medical learners, and the time could not be better for a comprehensive, curated resource hub that helps spotlight physician wellness and promote solutions.” – Dr. Ann Collins, CMA president
The Physician Wellness Hub is the latest initiative created to support the health of the medical profession, a key issue for the CMA. It follows the Wellness Connection, which offers virtual group support sessions; and the Wellness Support Line, which offers immediate and confidential support and counselling.