Physician, Heal Thyself: An Introduction

Psychiatric TimesVol 39, Issue 8

work life balance



Do you happen to recall the preamble to our principles of medical ethics? It not only emphasizes that “a physician must recognize responsibility to patients first and foremost,” but also to society, to colleagues, and to self.1 This makes it clear that we have an ethical responsibility for our own mental well-being, both individually and collectively.

Some risks to our mental well-being are personal vulnerabilities in terms of mental disorders. One of them is substance abuse, in part because we have easier access to substances, whether through institutional availability or via prescription. So we are indebted to Peter Grinspoon, MD, for the Special Report piece, “Understanding and Addressing Physician Substance Use and Misuse.”

The preamble does not actually say anything directly about the importance of our relationships to our mental well-being, but in our second Special Report piece—“Work-Life Balance: What Is It, and How Do We Attain it?”—Aparna Iyer, MD, does recognize its importance. Moreover, this article rightfully concludes that such a balance is not enough—our clinical systems and medical culture must also change and improve.

To best take care of our patients, we need the right kind of systems, colleagues who care for one another, and our own good-enough mental health and skills to focus on the needs of our patients. Fortunately, part 1 of this Special Report provides some pathways to that ideal.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. To create a better world, he is an advocate for treating mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.


1. The American Psychiatric Association: The Principles of Medical Ethics With Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry. American Psychiatric Association; 2013 Edition. ❒

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