UMN Medical School Launches Initiative to Combat Physician Burnout

Dear Colleagues,
People are our most important resource in the Medical School. You may have heard me say this before, and you will undoubtedly hear me say it again. We need to take care of our faculty, staff and students. Our first step has been to create an initiative to deal with one of our most severe problems in the Medical School: physician burnout. A problem that can range from something as simple as a doctor being too stressed to return a patient's call at the end of the day, to substance abuse, to leaving the profession, to suicide — it is something that we need to urgently address.

Burnout is not unique to the field of patient care, but because medicine is both a high-intensity field and an extremely personal one, its impact extends beyond physicians to the patients they care for, the faculty and staff they interact with, and the students they teach. Additionally, because there is a stigma against admitting any kind of weakness that pervades the training and culture of physicians, we want to take a leading role in helping to dissipate that stigma and giving people a clear way of getting assistance when needed. We want to create an environment where we allow people who are expected to be compassionate toward others to first be compassionate to themselves.

To emphasize the importance of this commitment on behalf of the Medical School, and as an essential step in this process, we are calling on one of our own: Dr. David Rothenberger. Well-known both as a remarkable surgeon and for his dedication to our faculty with his therapeutic—and perhaps most importantly, preventative—interventions to help safeguard physicians' well-being, he will ensure that compassion remains at the forefront of our mission.

As of January 1, 2018, Dr. Rothenberger will take on the role of Senior Advisor for Physician Wellbeing, in which he will advise the Medical School's leadership team on policies, programs and practices to help reduce physician burnout and increase physician faculty wellness and satisfaction. He will also contribute to enhancing mentoring programs and faculty wellness initiatives across the Medical School to increase resiliency among physicians and to ensure a culture of wellness for faculty, staff and students.

This is a critical effort in our drive to reverse burnout in our profession and to deliver compassionate and exceptional clinical care.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Rothenberger on his new role.

Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD
Dean of the Medical School and interim Vice President for the Health Sciences