Inspiring presentation to students at The University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine that received a standing ovation. Listen in below to full three-hour event (including Q/A) and/or transcribed presentation below:
Each year our future physicians enter medical school with their mental health on par with or better than their peers. The best and brightest humanitarians with a deep desire to help and heal others soon find themselves in a career with the highest suicide rate of any profession. How did medicine lose its way? How can we inspire students amid a culture that undermines their own mental health? Breaking through a century of medicine’s mental health stigma, Dr. Wible demonstrates how to be true to your original calling, and why being congruent with your deepest spiritual values turns medicine from a job into the most fulfilling career on the planet. (Plus loving your life as a doctor just might be the antidote to our physician suicide crisis)
Mark Clark, PhD: With physicians stories certain things kind of stick out to me. Particularly on the lookout for things that I think are possibilities of looking beyond somebody as simply a role model and a mentor. First thing that struck me early on in Dr. Wible’s biography was the fact that she’s a family physician and she started out around the time I was starting to get into medical humanity so early 2000, somewhere in there. She got frustrated in the struggle with all the weight of family practice—the direction her profession was going. So what she did was go off into the community, lead a town hall meeting and she asked what kind of clinic they wanted. And from there she got started developing a solo community clinic.
This is not exactly the subject of her talk today, but I thought it was important because what I see happening is this finding yourself in the condition of helplessness or vulnerability—but responding to that in action. So she had the town hall and she got going. When we talk about “burnout” we feel a true lack of agency. So what I want you guys to look at in mentors, in role models, in physicians is where especially they find a way to act—despite whatever circumstances they’re in—there is this agency and this capacity to act. That can really make a difference.
So she may talk about that. It really struck me as part of who she is and something that was worth noting. So she’s very active still in her family medicine clinic. Because of her own life experience, she’s gotten involved with physician suicide prevention. She’s investigated more than 1,100 doctor suicides and her extensive database and suicide registry reveals high-risk specialties—and solutions. In between treating her own patients Dr. Wible runs a free suicide hotline and has helped countless medical students and physicians heal from anxiety, depression, PTSD and suicidal thoughts so they can enjoy practicing medicine again.
I had several delightful conversations with Dr. Wible leading up to this event and I just felt like we are on the same wavelength. I was just incredibly happy when she presented me with the title of her talk which I thought was completely in line with what we have going on in unit nine and all the way through these last two years. Healing our healers—living your spiritual calling in medicine. Welcome Dr. Wible.
Pamela Wible, MD: Thank you so much for having me. I’m very, very excited to be here. Thank you for getting up early for me. So yeah, did you know that I almost went to med school in San Antonio? I only interviewed at two places. Back in the day when you could get into residency with only two residency applications. I got my top choice of residency and med school—and I only applied seriously to two med schools as well. But there was a cool thing with Texas, I don’t know if they still do it, where you apply with one application that goes to all schools. That was awesome. So yeah, I ended up at Galveston.
In my San Antonio interview, this old-guard med school guy was like really scary. He tried to scare us or something and I just thought, “Oh I love San Antonio but that was scary.” I’ve got to go somewhere where it’s safe. So I went to Galveston and I had my own issues there. But I’m glad that I went to UTMB, and my mom went to UTMB as well. So we just went back a few years ago to her 50th medical school reunion and it was my 22nd and there’s not many mother—daughter pairs that can go back to their medical school reunions together so that was pretty cool. Plants the seed for you all. Have your children come here I guess 25 years from now—and you can enjoy reunion together too!
So I thought we would do this in a really interactive and fun way where we could all learn together. Hopefully you all have index cards because I have a little experience for you all. I’m going to ask three questions. So on your index cards if you could just put one, two, three, one on top of the other. First question (don’t think too hard, just sort of stream of consciousness) is how old were you when you very first had the idea that you were born to be a healer or a doctor on this planet? The very first time you thought this could be your destiny. If you are on faculty, please answer these questions as well. You might want to make a note on your card that you are faculty. I would love to collect these at the end and just sort of see what everyone has written down. It would help me understand where medical students are today versus my experience 25 years ago.
So that’s the first question. Number two—what was your primary motivation back at that age when you first had that idea? What was your primary motivation in one or two words? Why is it that you wanted to pursue this profession?
And then number three. Same age. Take yourself back to that moment. What was your big dream that you had? Your original dream when you were four or five, eight years old—that original dream that you had to cure cancer, you wanted to be an amazing pediatric oncologist. Whatever it was that you thought that you were going to be at that moment. Maybe just a pediatrician in a small town or a family doctor. Write that down as well.
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