You may have started the campaign we didn’t know we needed

Demonstrators at a Black Lives Matter event in West Roxbury, MA

Forgive me for utilizing such a public forum to reach out. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t share the insight you so enthusiastically bellowed during Tuesday’s goings-on at Newton City Hall with a wider audience.

For readers unfamiliar with events that occurred in the suburbs of Boston, MA, on the afternoon of July 7, 2020, allow me to relay.

As protests go, it was a bit docile. There were no angry mobs, no upturned rubbish bins, nary a single monosyllabic chant in earshot. Armed with well-rehearsed speeches and face masks (ostensibly their only political garb), a few dozen…


Past Is Prologue

What’s insidious is the way these monuments infect our memories, our relationships, and our beliefs

The interior of Lee Chapel with Robert E. Lee’s statue.
The interior of Lee Chapel with Robert E. Lee’s statue.
General Robert E. Lee’s statue inside Lee Chapel in Washington and Lee University with blue USA flag and flag of Coat of Arms of Washington and Lee University in foreground. Photo: Bruce Yuanyue Bi/Getty Images

When I hear the name Robert E. Lee, I think of the year Lee High won the state championship football game. I recall the look on my father’s face when I wrecked my first car off Lee Highway en route to my childhood home. I reminisce about strumming guitar outside the chapel at Washington and Lee University. My friends and I would play John Denver and dance beside the Lee family crypt.

I was born Elizabeth Lee Saylor, a name I’d eventually desert when I abandoned the ideologies and Blue Ridge vistas of my native Dixie.

Many of my fellow…


If past is prologue, we’re going to lose our best.

It’s hard to imagine a greater strain on the U.S. economy, healthcare system, and social fabric of our country than the present coronavirus outbreak. Add to that the likelihood of a departure of healthcare workers when the pandemic slows, and we’re in for a long recovery.

Much has been written on the current provider shortage in nearly every specialty in healthcare. Data published last year by the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortfall of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a need for more than a million nurses. And a 2017 study…


Health system leaders should be marking their calendars to honor their teams

To say these are trying times would be a profound understatement. The coronavirus pandemic has thrown all elements of normalcy into what feels like an unending tailspin, as people seek to cope, connect, and heal.

But as quickly as this moment started, it will end. Shops will reopen, children will return to classrooms, places of worship will reconvene. To be sure, our collective experience will be studied and memories shared, but for most us, life will go on.

It’s also true that for many of our nation’s essential workers — from clinicians to grocery store clerks — the impact of…


In an article appearing in the Journal of Global Infectious Disease, the authors describe the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa: “Imagine working in an environment where providing care is intimately tied to the likelihood of contracting a potentially lethal disease. Imagine the burden of constantly living and working under the gravest of circumstances. Imagine witnessing the deaths of hundreds of people… This [is] the terrifying reality of being a physician.”

Many clinicians relate similar scenes unfolding in the U.S. as they scramble to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak.

I study burnout and fulfillment among the American healthcare workforce. I…


In June, the U.K. Ministry of Loneliness launched a campaign to destigmatize social isolation. It came after the release of data indicating that three in four young adults in the country regularly feel the pangs of loneliness, nearly 60% of urban-dwellers report feeling lonely, and a full four million older people consider television their main form of company.

The data is no better on this side of the pond. As the number of single households has steadily risen in recent years and record numbers of Americans report feeling isolated, leaders like the former Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, MD, are now…


So why aren’t we talking about them?

There’s little doubt that modern medicine needs an overhaul. From how clinicians train to how patients fare, our current system is unwieldy, expensive, and fragmented.

Yet rarely in the debate on healthcare do we focus on what’s going well.

This March, a report was released by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University that examined the cost effectiveness of America’s Teaching Health Centers (THCs). The report indicates that the THC program could produce nearly $2 billion in public program savings (Medicaid and Medicare) over the next five years.

That’s news we can all get behind.


It’s all about relationships.

My mother was a potpourri of medical maladies. Heart disease. Breast cancer. Rheumatoid arthritis. Lymphedema. And those were just the big ones.

At any moment, mom was preparing for, recovering from, or in the throes of a sickness, diagnosis, or operation.

Or worse, enjoying it.

Once, after a particularly rough bout, she exercised her right to a dying wish: she would tell everyone what she really (really) thought of them.

To say it went poorly would be generous — particularly the part when we had to notify her after her disclosures that she was not, in fact, terminal.

Mom had…


Using narrative to build community and accelerate change in medicine

With Elisabeth Poorman, MD, and Audrey Provenzano, MD, MPH

On a rainy night in November, dozens of healthcare providers filled a dimly lit restaurant in downtown Boston. In an event hosted by Primary Care Progress, surgeons, primary care doctors, research scientists, medical students, and clinical staff came together to share stories from the frontlines of medicine.

Edward Billingslea talked of the sense of “not belonging” as an African-American man in biomedical research. Joe Wright and Elisabeth Poorman spoke of lessons learned in the trenches of the opioid epidemic. Sara Selig recalled caring for both her husband and her Native American…


with Keren Meital Kinner, MSEd, and Dana Hiniker

In three separate conversations over the course of a week, three women from three different academic medical institutions shared feedback from recent evaluations. In every case, the women had been labeled “too confident.”

“So I stopped speaking up,” one noted. “I qualified every statement with, ‘I may be wrong, but…’ or ‘I’m just junior faculty, so…’” Another woman shared that her supervisor suggested she “lower the pitch of your voice so we can better understand you.” And still another manager offered this gem of unsolicited advice, “At this stage of your career…

Elizabeth Métraux

Elizabeth Métraux, founder of Women Writers in Medicine, is a writer, thinker, and seeker of a more fulfilling, connected existence. Follow her @Elizabeth_PCP

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