On January 11, 2016, just before midnight, I uploaded a game-changing book to Amazon. I’m now awaiting my proof before releasing the book to the world. (As of January 15th it’s now available on Amazon here). Medical education and practice will never be the same. Mark my words.
Here’s a sneak peek for those who are curious. The description from the back cover:
In Physician Suicide Letters—Answered, Dr. Wible exposes the pervasive and largely hidden medical culture of bullying, hazing, and abuse that claims the lives of countless medical students, doctors, and patients. Now—for the first time released to the public—here are private letters and last words from our doctors who could no longer bear the pain of an abusive medical system. What you don’t know about medical training and culture can kill you. Dr. Wible takes you behind the white coat and into the mind, heart, and soul of our doctors—and provides answers.
This book includes real suicide letters—the last words of medical students and doctors. Also included are letters from surviving family members, colleagues, and patients. Most letters are from actively suicidal physicians seeking my help. All have been published with permission. A few have been edited for clarity. Some names have been changed upon request to safeguard the careers of those who have written to me. Meet six of the physicians we lost to suicide below:
Bobby Bowling, M.D., Philip Henderson, M.D., III, Kevin Dietl, D.O., Kailtyn Elkins, MS3, Vincent Uybarreta, M.D., Greg Miday, M.D.
Despite it all, I remain an optimist.
Medical school knocked me to my knees. I haven’t been the same since. Even though I still have a sparkle in my eyes and joy in my heart, a piece of me is missing. I can never get it back. I’ve tried. My innocence is gone.
Like most students, I just wanted to help people. I wanted to heal the broken world, the injured hearts and souls of patients who would one day entrust me with their lives. Instead, I nearly lost my own life. The memo-rization-regurgitation method of medical education disturbed my creative, non-linear mind. I studied constantly—spitting back medical minutiae for multiple-choice tests. I’m an average test-taker, though I excel with patients. I’m happiest helping people.
But it’s difficult to be happy (or to help people) in a medical culture that condones hazing, bullying, sexual harassment, and teaching by public humiliation. In my school, there seemed to be no end to the filthy jokes that demeaned female patients and classmates. In lectures, my instructors actually made fun of vegetarians for eating “health food.” When I protested the dog labs (as first-year medical students we had to kill dogs), the dean diagnosed me with “Bambi Syndrome.” I was belittled because I cared—about animals, about people, about my own health, and about this planet we call home.
I cried my way through the first year of medical school. As long as my tears kept flowing, I knew I would be okay. Crying meant that I could still feel pain. If I stopped crying, I thought I would go numb. One night I cried so much that I awoke the next day with my eyelids swollen shut. I could no longer bear to see the brutality.
I survived by clinging to my dream of being a caring family physician, of making house calls, of being a trusted and loving neighborhood doctor. I graduated from med school, completed residency, and got a job. I hated it. So I moved to another clinic. Then another. And another. After a decade of seven-minute visits at assembly-line clinics, I was nothing more than a factory worker. I felt like my dream was dead.
I wanted to die.
And, I thought I was the only doctor who felt this way.
Then I got a crazy idea. What if I asked for help? Not from the profession that wounded me. Instead I asked patients: “What is ideal health care? What kind of doctor do you want?”
They told me that an ideal doctor is happy, has a big heart and a great love for people and service. They described an ideal clinic as a sanctuary, a safe place, a place of wisdom with fun flannel gowns and complimentary massage while waiting, where nobody is turned away for lack of money.
I followed their instructions and opened their ideal clinic—the first clinic designed entirely by patients!
I started writing and speaking about my dream-come-true clinic, how I survived med school, and how I recovered from my occupationally induced depression and suicidal thoughts.
Then something weird and unexpected happened. I started getting letters from suicidal medical students and doctors. I wasn’t the only one who had felt this way!
Each year more than one million Americans lose their doctors to suicide, and nobody ever tells patients the truth—the real reason they can’t see their doctors ever again.
Nobody talks about our doctors jumping from hospital rooftops, overdosing in call rooms, hanging themselves in hospital chapels. It’s medicine’s dirty secret—and it’s covered up by our hospitals, clinics, and medical schools.
No medical school wants to be known as the “Suicide School.” No hospital wants to be #1 for interns jumping from rooftops. No student wants to become a doctor in order to kill themselves. It’s the ultimate oxymoron: the barefoot shoemaker, the starving chef, the suicidal doctor.
So what the hell is going on? Why is the plague of physician and medical student suicide such a secret? Why am I the one piecing this together? I’m a solo family doc, yet somehow I’ve become an investigative reporter, a specialist in physician suicide. Why? Mostly because I can’t stop asking why. Why did both doctors I dated in med school die by suicide? Why did eight doctors kill themselves—just in my sweet little Oregon town?
There are answers. Finding them requires being willing to look at some very disturbing facts. It also requires the willingness to engage with people who have experienced and who continue to experience a great deal of pain. So I keep talking and writing—and listening for the truth. And because I’m listening with my heart and soul 24/7, my cell phone has turned into a suicide hotline and I’ve received hundreds of letters from suicidal physicians all over the world.
You may be wondering why so many people who want to help people end up killing themselves. That’s why I wrote this book.