|Patricia Lindholm, MD,|
2010-2011 MMA President
Recently I became aware of the work of Lee Lipsenthal, M.D., an internist who developed a program called “Finding Balance in a Medical Life.” He has written a book by the same name that I suspect will be on my reference shelf and used for many years into the future.
The first half of the book summarizes what is known about the physician personality, the state of physician health and the prevalence of burnout. My readings in the area of physician wellbeing over the last two years confirm his analysis.
The second half of the book contains a panoply of tools which can help us find our way out of burnout and back to a life of balance. Many of these are familiar to those of us who have studied psychology and neuroscience in the last couple of decades, such as cognitive therapy and emotional shifting. Mindfulness meditation is discussed in some detail with exercises that can easily be done over 5-10 minute periods. There is an interesting chapter on “Psychosynthesis” which discusses how to identify our personality and sub-personalities and how to use them to respond to a variety of situations.
By serendipity, I also came across the keynote lecture that Lipsenthal delivered to the annual Scientific Assembly of the American Academy of Family Physicians in 2010 in Denver. The AAFP shared a video of his presentation on their web site for those of us who were unable to attend the meeting. During that talk, Lipsenthal revealed that he was undergoing treatment for metastatic adenocarcinoma of the gastroesophageal junction. Thus far he has survived about 18 months from diagnosis and looks pretty good but is well aware of the poor five-year prognosis. By already having established a habit of meditation and daily expressions of gratitude, he was prepared to face the illness with calm.
The book and the talk both ended with the following words of wisdom: Balance is knowing that today is a good day to die; that you have lived fully, lovingly and without remorse.
May we have many good days.