Petition to end medical student and physician suicide
Dear AAMC and ACGME,
This week we lost another bright, young soul to suicide. Sean Petro was in his third year at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and is the third tragedy at his school in the last two years.
Medical student and physician suicide is an epidemic. It is estimated that 400 doctors die by suicide in the United States each year. That’s the equivalent of an entire medical school gone! The second leading cause of death among medical students is suicide—a well-known occupational hazard in medicine. Yet no medical organization is tracking these suicides. So how can we solve a problem that’s hidden?
The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) and ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) claim to improve the health care of all through serving the academic medicine community and advancing the quality of physician education. How can this be achieved when so many of us are contemplating or completing suicide?
The fact is we enter medicine with our mental health on par with or better than our peers. Medical education too often involves years of public humiliation, bullying, and sleep deprivation. Those who seek help risk punishment. Mental health remains stigmatized within the medical profession to the detriment of all.
As physicians who are dedicated to caring for the physical and mental health of others, we’re appalled at the level of inaction among our own organizations when it comes to caring for us. We urge the AAMC and ACGME to track medical student and physician suicides, to end the highly abusive culture of medical training, and to offer routine and confidential on-the-job psychological support to all medical students and physicians.
Inaction and ignorance are no longer an option. Lives are on the line. This is a public health crisis that impacts us all.
Ashley Maltz, M.D., M.P.H., and Pamela Wible, M.D.
(Attention physicians: please support this letter with a blog comment and add your name to the petition.)