Dr. Leigh Sundem dies by suicide. Here’s her last request.

Dr. Leigh Sundem, a phenomenal physician died by suicide. Accomplished & super-smart with a 4.0 GPA, even aced the MCAT, yet was unmatched to residency 3 times . . . so she scrambled twice into temporary spots (but couldn’t get anything the third time). Even though she had 16 academic awards, 6 professional leadership positions, 5 research projects, 8 scientific publications, 9 scientific presentations, 10 years of teaching experience, and membership in 12 professional organizations, Leigh was left unemployable due to discrimination WITHIN medicine from her drug addiction as a teen For which she was a vocal advocate—celebrated by the nation—15 years clean & sober, a success story! Devoted to healing others. But the medical profession killed her dream. In her suicide note, she leaves us one request. . . .

Please join us for SOLUTIONS, Sunday, May 3—an expert panel discussion after viewing the Do No Harm documentary by Emmy-winning filmmaker exposing the hidden suicide crisis among doctors. Learn simple ways you can prevent the loss of any more beautiful people like Leigh. View trailer & join us here.

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8 comments on “Dr. Leigh Sundem dies by suicide. Here’s her last request.
  1. Evelyn Watts, LSW, MSW says:

    Sounds like these precious souls were a casualty of an unseen, and internal raging war perpetrated by “back room,” indomitable, and unstoppable dark forces of chauvinism. In all sectors of the marketplace there are people working and living with mental illness and addiction. Bring that truth out in front and expose it to the light of justice, fairness, and equality. #WeRiseTogether!

    • Kelli Mayfield MD says:

      Academic institutions cannot ascribe to a model of opiate use disorder (OUD) as a medically treatable disease and continue to treat physicians in recovery as morally inferior and defective individuals in need of punishment.
      After 18 years in recovery, I left addiction medicine due to rejection by similarly biased systems. I beg these institutions to be thought leaders and not to bend to media-induced fears of the opiate crisis. Heartbroken and outraged over the death of this brilliant young woman due to such ongoing stigma!

      • Evelyn Weinstein, LMSW says:

        Discrimination, fear, and power-hungry motivators keep our best and brightest and most of all, our most compassionate young doctors strapped to an imaginary gurney that relentlessly rolls downhill to their own emotional and physical demise. Dr. Mayfield is correct, there can’t be two versions of the truth – that opiate use disorder is treatable and that it is also the mark of permanent shame. That not only defies logic, it is the evidence of our moral bankruptcy in a profession that arose from the most lofty ideals. We will not survive while the least and best of us is driven to such despair. We need to fix this, now!

  2. Jim Braselton says:

    From deciding to pursue medical school to afterwards, Leigh knew that every step would be a huge one. She knew that she would not get into medical school or licensed in Georgia. She was excited about Rochester. After that, she knew that getting a residency was going to be another huge step. And then, even if that was completed, she knew that getting licensed would be yet another obstacle. It makes me very, very sad that she made such an irrevocable decision when she always told me that she knew that every step of the way was going to be really difficult and getting to the next one might even be impossible. She was wonderful.

  3. I just heard today of Leigh’s tragic passing. First of all, my deepest condolences to her family! Leigh’s death is a tragic loss to the medical field, her community at large, and the recovery community. During Leigh’s residency in Las Vegas I had the pleasure of getting to know her and sponsoring her in our mutual recovery program. I agree with the physicians that called out the medical community for its apparent ‘speaking out of both sides’. We acknowledge that alcoholism & substance abuse is a Brain Disorder and treatable, not curable, yet we continue the stigma. This is a tragic death for all of us in recovery. I’ve committed my professional life to working in the field of chemical dependency and continue to hold optimism about progress and destigmatization. I will continue to hope. Fly my dear one with angels and I’ll remember your beautiful energy. 🙏🏼🙏🏼💜💜🙏🏼🙏🏼

  4. I just heard today of Leigh’s tragic passing. First of all, my deepest condolences to her family! Leigh’s death is a tragic loss to the medical field, her community at large, and the recovery community. During Leigh’s residency in Las Vegas I had the pleasure of getting to know her and sponsoring her in our mutual recovery program. I agree with the physicians that called out the medical community for its apparent ‘speaking out of both sides’. We acknowledge that alcoholism & substance abuse is a Brain Disorder and treatable, not curable, yet we continue the stigma. This is a tragic death for all of us in recovery. I’ve committed my professional life to working in the field of chemical dependency and continue to hold optimism about progress and destigmatization. I will continue to hope. Fly my dear one with angels and I’ll remember your beautiful energy. 🙏🏼🙏🏼💜💜🙏🏼🙏🏼 Johanna, PhD

  5. Ruchi Fitzgerald, MD says:

    Leigh, I make this promise to you. To work very hard on behalf of other doctors in your position, to advocate for them and to eliminate the stigma from substance use disorder. This story resonates to the core of my soul. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and cherished friends.

  6. 6,750 fellow doctors went unmatched last year. How many of those do you think have also thought about suicide? I bet at least half. Please help our American Citizen Doctors who are good people and need jobs by advocating through your local representatives for the S348 Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019. This would increase residency positions and provide the last piece of training for people like Dr.Sundem and myself. This is how you can help and make her death mean something. Please act.

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