How to Grow a Happy Doctor

April 8, 2016
Pamela Wible, MD

Clinician mental health advocate Pamela Wible, MD, has drafted The 10 Commandments for Medical Educators. Your comments welcomed.

Yesterday I spoke with 500 medical educators who are responsible for educating more than 26,000 medical students across 44 medical school campuses in the United States. Before my presentation, I asked 500 medical students: What are 3 things you’d like to tell your dean (but are afraid to say)? I’ll do it for you.

Here’s the basic message I delivered to a room full of medical school deans, provosts, presidents, and administrators in my keynote, Humanizing Medical Education: How To grow A Happy Doctor.

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"47559","attributes":{"alt":"Pamela Wible, MD ","class":"media-image media-image-right","height":"225","id":"media_crop_2567503693587","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"5613","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"margin: 8px; float: right;","title":"Pamela Wible, MD ","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"267"}}]]Isn’t it amazing that we know how to perform lung transplants, map the human genome, grow organs in laboratories, but we don’t know how to grow a happy doctor? We do know how to grow unhappy doctors. Here’s what a medical student named Sam wants you to know:

1) Med school is the single most unhealthy thing I have ever done for my body, mind, and spirit.

2) I was on zero psychiatric medications and now I am on more than one, and it’s my second year of med school.

3) The only communication the administration has with us is through fear mongering and the upperclassmen just tell us to get through it and it’ll be over soon.

I’ve heard from lots of medical students like Sam. So I synthesized all the responses I received from students into the top 10 commandments for medical school educators. Yes, this is what medical students want to tell you but are afraid to say.

The 10 Commandments for Medical Educators

1) Teach leadership, transformation and empowerment in the curriculum. Empower me so I can empower patients. 

2) Stop creating an environment that encourages competition among students. 

3) Tell me that it’s okay to cry in front of patients if it’s on their behalf.

4) Ask what inspires me and ask how you can help me achieve my goals.

5) Respect us as adult learners. Avoid condescension. Don’t revel in our ignorance. We want to learn. Try not to kill our curiosity. 

6) Advocate for humane treatment of attendings. So many docs have Stockholm syndrome, and see themselves as strong and capable, while seeing med students as whiny lazy kids who need to grow thicker skin. They need to be cared for and educated so that they see themselves as survivors of abuse-and empowered to break the cycle of abuse.

7) Be more concerned about your students wellbeing than damn Step 1 scores.

8) Provide emotional support for doctors and med students. Our wellbeing benefits the whole system. We are not the enemies here.

9) Please don’t train me to forsake my humanity to be a better doctor. My humanity should be celebrated, enhanced, and matured, not demeaned, degraded, or insulted.

10) Show me empathy.

What happens when medical training continues not to follow the sage advice of these students?  More of this:


Pamela Wible, M.D., is a family physician who is determined to stop the medical culture of bullying, hazing, and abuse that has injured countless medical students, physicians, and patients. Want to help? Contact Dr. Wible.

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