Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Leading by example

Patricia Lindholm, M.D.
MMA president
I was recently alerted to a new Gallup study that looked at the health and health behaviors of physicians compared to nurses and to other employed adults. The results were also controlled for income and education. How did we physicians do? Perhaps the title will give it away: “U.S. Physicians Set Good Health Example.”

Overall, physicians are in better health compared to the employed adult population.  The study also lists comparative prevalences of chronic diseases among physicians, nurses and employed U.S. adults. 

Our health behaviors are similar to other highly educated individuals with the exception of smoking. Only 4 percent of physicians smoke, compared to 15 percent of nurses and 20 percent of other workers.

It would be interesting to see if the findings hold true at each of our clinics and hospitals. Like all rankings, it can be a motivator for some of us to do better.

 It’s great to see that we appear to be listening to our own advice.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Remembering friends and looking ahead

Patricia Lindholm, MD
Immediate Past MMA President

I want to take some time to honor the passing of two physicians whose careers were dedicated to the promotion of physician well-being. 

Remembering our colleagues
Jud Reaney, MD was a developmental pediatrician at Park Nicollet and a most valued member of the MMA Physician Well-being Task Force in 2010-2011.  He worked through the Park Nicollet Foundation to promote physician wellness by coordinating and facilitating physician retreats among other activities.  He offered to facilitate a retreat for the task force based on the work of Parker Palmer.  We attended this Courage and Renewal Retreat as a group and I personally found the weekend to be a growth experience and an opportunity to enjoy nature and the companionship of colleagues.  During the past year we followed Jud’s journey with pancreatic cancer on his Caring Bridge web site.  Jud was one of those people who seemed to me to have a special aura of deep joy and sincere caring for people.  The many tributes to him on the Caring Bridge site made evident that many lives were touched by his and made better for having known him.

Lee Lipsenthal, MD was introduced to some of you last year in my President’s Blog.  He wrote a book and founded an organization both called “Finding Balance in a Medical Life.”  His presentations, conferences and writings have been enthusiastically received over the years by our colleagues around the country.  I recommend his work to you.  He also wrote a book during the last period of his life when he knew his time was limited by cancer.  The book is called “Enjoy Every Sandwich.”  It is in my library and a reminder of the importance of gratitude and mindfulness throughout our lives.  You can watch a brief video of him discussing his book at www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UIFbOfWwYE.  

Physician well-being symposium
Minnesota physicians have an opportunity this spring to attend a special event offered by the Health Partners Institute for Continuing Education.  On June 7 there will be a physician well-being symposium, “Enhancing Physician Resilience” at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center.  This will be followed by several performances at the Guthrie Theater of a play written by William Thomas, MD, “Play What’s Not There.”  The play portrays five physicians at various points in their careers and the stresses and efforts to achieve work-life balance.  It will be followed by a facilitated discussion.  For more information and to register, please go to http://www.physicianwell-being.com/. 

I will try not to be absent so long from the blog in the future.  I look forward to writing again soon!

Monday, January 9, 2012


Patricia Lindholm, MD,
Immediate Past MMA President
Often I arrive at the end of a week, a month or a year wondering, “Where did all the time go?”  This sense of time moving more quickly is common as we age.  As a child I felt that a year was an eternity.  Now that we have entered a new year, it seems that last January was only a couple of months ago.  Am I failing to fully realize each moment in the present?  Probably.

Mindfulness is a practice of being present in the here and now, fully aware of the moment in which we live.  This concept is at least as old as Buddhism which teaches among other things that we should be awake while we live. 

Essentially I usually live in my head.  My thoughts come and go and take me away as if on a train.  While I am on the thought-train reality is present all around me and I am not aware of it.  I may be driving to work and not even noticing the landscape around me, rather I am in my own imaginary world.  When I spend time living in my thoughts the passage of time is not noticed until I awaken to it. 

I am pleased to see that psychology and other mental health disciplines have been using mindfulness practice in the treatment of anxiety, depression and other affective disorders.  Being mindful of the present is a therapeutic alternative to preoccupation with worries and negative thoughts.  Even suicidal thinking can be derailed by a purposeful attention to my breath in the present moment.  Rather than ruminate on a vicious cycle of self-criticism, I can choose to acknowledge that in this present moment I am alive and can appreciate the song of a bird or the beauty of a sunset.  I can feel the air enter and leave my lungs, smell the fragrance of clean laundry. 

During the day in my clinic I have learned to treasure the moments that I am with each patient.  If I am mindful during these encounters I can realize the joy in my work.  I am learning to be present for a greater proportion of my day.  I frequently find myself pausing deliberately to take a slow conscious breath and remember that I live only in the present moment.  I am striving to increase my mindfulness practice and capture as many of my moments as possible.

If you are interested in mindfulness practice I recommend the books of Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Pema Chodron, and others who have been teaching mindfulness for many years.  I would also recommend enrolling in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course such as offered by the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing.