Joey Johnson: We are honored to introduce our keynote speakers, Dr. Pamela Wible and Robyn Symon. Dr. Wible speaks widely on healthcare delivery and is a best-selling author of Physician Suicide Letters—Answered. When not treating patients Dr. Wible devotes herself to medical student and physician suicide prevention. An inspiring leader and educator of the next generation of physicians, Dr. Wible has been named one of the 2015 Women Leaders in Medicine and TEDMED calls her the “Physician’s Guardian Angel.”
Robyn Symon is a two-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, specializing in documentaries and television series. Her most recent film, Do No Harm focuses on the toxic culture of medicine and the effect on doctors, medical students and their families. We’re also privileged to have with us today, John and Michele Deitl, who will share their personal story of their son, Kevin—a promising medical student who was lost to suicide. Please join me in welcoming, with much emotion, Dr. Wible, Robyn Symon, and the Deitl’s to the stage.
Robyn Symon: Thank you so much, it’s so great to be here, it’s an honor. This is actually the first time the film has been shown outside of MD Anderson. I took a little pit stop on the way over from LA to screen it. It was fascinating because it was a combination of administrators, faculty and residents. After the screening, people were in shock, the administrators were there to defend what they were doing or trying to do, some of the faculty were concerned about wellness were there to say, “This is just like lip service.” And the residents were kind of scared about what was happening and if they had any power to change anything. This film, we hope, is a conversation starter about the problem and we need to come up with solutions together because it’s complex.
How many of you have seen the film last night? What did you think? Good? Awesome. It’s funny, I was watching the SIM operation here earlier and it just reminded me (I’m not a doctor, maybe I’m hoping an honorary one after spending four years at med school) if you ever go out to dinner with a group of physicians things can get very strange. We’re eating and all of a sudden (many times over the past four years) the conversation will turn to their latest surgery, with great detail, “Oh, we made this incision and there was this big mess there and he cut and I was looking at the blood spurting” and I’m looking at my food and it’s like, “This meal is over.” And they were like, “It was nothing.” So, it’s really an honor to be able to eat and talk like that. You guys are brilliant, brilliant. But just keep that in mind when you’re in mixed company. . .
I actually started this journey four years ago in 2014. Someone had sent me an op-ed story from the New York Times about these two young doctors who jumped from the roofs of their hospitals. Brilliant, young residents with their whole lives ahead of them. They had gone through so much to get to where they were and they jumped, right off the ledge. I just couldn’t understand it. So, I started to look into the reasons why; the competitions, the bullying, the hazing, the pimping, the sleep deprivation, the lack of coping skills that you’re given, its like a time bomb waiting to go off. So, let me show you this trailer and then we can talk a little bit about the reality of what’s happening and then let’s talk about you and how we can all make a difference together. So let’s roll that.
Robyn Symon: Not to scare you . . . it’s still a noble calling but, it’s time for change. This has been a hidden epidemic for decades, nothing’s been done about it. I think with the advent of social media now is the time that we can change because we can all be in touch. It’s interesting, firemen, policemen, they function as teams and when things go wrong, they have each other to support each other. But physicians, for some reason, function like islands. So they don’t tend to lean on each other. Weakness is frowned upon.