I just woke up to a beautiful sunny day in Oregon. Then I got two emails about medical student/physician suicides and this Facebook message.
Student: Hi Pamela. I don’t know if you have heard. But there was a death at our school yesterday in the class of 2018. I’m hearing it was a suicide
Me: I’ve just heard of 2 others today. An orthopedic surgeon in Missouri and a Canadian med student. Can you share details?
Student: Female student. I’ve learned an apparent first name. And she had a Muslim quiet prayer service late last night. Oh Pamela. My heart hurts. I begged my school to start looking after our students after what happened to me.
Me: I can’t believe we are hiding all this in 2016.
Student: Pamela, it’s ridiculous and so hush-hush. I know nothing officially.
Me: Many med schools are seriously in the dark ages the way the treat students and teach “heath care.” Infuriating!
Student: This story repeats itself every 2 years at my school. I’ve seen/heard suicides 2012, 2014 (that was my friend), and now 2016.
Me: And what exactly are they doing other than deflecting blame on the victims?
Student: Wtf. She will absolutely be blamed. It makes me sick
Me: I need to write about this. Can I include our de-identified conversation?
Student: Sure. I’ve reached out to anyone I know in med school now (and even premeds) to let them know that I am here for them. None of this is worth a life. None of it. And it makes me sick that my medical school is so absolutely crappy and shitty at dealing with mental wellness and wellbeing of our own students.
Me: Ugh, and we pay tuition for this!
Student: They are more concerned with board scores, matching stats, and being the biggest medical school in the US. 4th year medical students are getting more and more dismissed if there is a chance they may not match, I’ve heard that. So dismissed over maybe one test screw up or “professional issues” that never used to be. Match has gotten so competitive they have gone crazy with it. The malignant practices are disgusting. I know good people and they will be thrown under the bus. Many administrators here are incompetent. And some decisions come from people without an MD/DO. Ugh, I’m sorry, I’m upset and very upset this happened AGAIN at my medical school.
Student: I’m just so sorry that anyone may have felt that helpless. It hurts my heart. How is it ok to sweep this under a rug?
Me: We have to stop this secrecy. Please share my TEDMED talk with your classmates. Tell them it is NOT their fault. Huge issue is that med students and doctors are unwilling to grasp they they are part of a cycle of abuse. We are perpetuating the abuse by protecting the status quo. We absolutely MUST be vocal and stand up for each other. This is NOT okay to sweep under the rug:
Addendum: Just lost another colleague after I published this post. Midwest urologist shot himself in the hospital. When will this end? When we shine a spotlight on these suicides. Stop the coverup. We need a national investigation. More than one million Americans are losing their doctors to suicide each year. This is a public health crisis and should be reported on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX news. Let’s stop hiding the truth.
Pamela Wible, M.D., is a physician on a mission to stop medical student and physician suicides and end the culture of bullying, hazing, and abuse in medical education and practice. Please help by sharing this TEDMED talk and this book Physician Suicide Letters—Answered. ** All proceeds used for suicide prevention.**