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Be Well and Stay Well This Summer, Michael Kuduk, KMA President

Be Well and Stay Well This Summer

By Michael Kuduk, KMA President

With the summer months almost here, I hope many of you are looking forward to taking some time off and going on vacations and spending time with family. I just returned from a trip overseas and can confirm that taking time away from your busy schedule and demands as a physician can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered. It was really refreshing not to see a computer screen for a few weeks!

Even if you can’t physically “get away” this year, I would encourage you to take some time this summer to assess your mental health and address any feelings of stress. Medicine is hard. While many times this issue can sneak up on us, there are signs that can begin to manifest before we may realize what is actually going on. The American Academy of Family Physicians says that there are three “cardinal symptoms” of burnout. They include:

  1. Exhaustion. The physician’s physical and emotional energy levels are extremely low and in a downward spiral. A common thought process at this point is, “I’m not sure how much longer I can keep going like this.”
  2. Depersonalization. This is signaled by cynicism, sarcasm, and the need to vent about your patients or your job. This is also known as “compassion fatigue.” At this stage, you are not emotionally available for your patients, or anyone else for that matter. Your emotional energy is tapped dry. You may just not care, which is not why you went into medicine.
  3. Lack of efficacy. You begin to doubt the meaning and quality of your work and think, “What’s the use? My work doesn’t really serve a purpose anyway.” You may worry that you will make a mistake if things don’t get better soon.

If any of these sound like you (or if there are other stressors impacting your life), I’d like to encourage you to take advantage of programs available to address such issues. The Lexington Medical Society (LMS) offers The Physician Wellness Program (PWP), which was designed as a safe harbor for LMS active and retired physicians, UK College of Medicine residents, fellows, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and medical students to address normal life difficulties in a confidential and professional environment. LMS members receive 8 free sessions each calendar year for active and retired physicians and residents and fellows, and UK medical students receive 12 free sessions each calendar year. Also, keep in mind that due to the advocacy efforts of KMA and other groups, Senate Bill 12, passed in 2023, encourages physicians to seek care when needed through a wellness program and records of a physician’s participation in such a program is confidential and has legal protections.

In discussing physician wellness, I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the work of Lexington physician Dr. Dale Toney, who served as KMA President from 2020-2021. As the first (and hopefully only) “virtual” KMA President, Dr. Toney’s leadership during the pandemic was literally unprecedented and helped to keep physicians informed and inspired during this difficult time. Dr. Toney was instrumental in the development of the KMA’s “Be Well. Stay Well. Program” which built on work already started in Lexington and Louisville. In addition, he spearheaded important public health messages, most importantly on the positive benefits of vaccination, perhaps at a time when it was most needed. I personally appreciated his calm, effective leadership at a time when medicine and public health was anything but calm, as well as his reasoned, thoughtful approach to solving difficult and unprecedented problems.  I served as his board chair, and deeply appreciate his leadership at such a difficult time for medicine and public health. Dr. Toney is an exceptional leader and mentor and I want to personally thank him for his service to KMA.

I hope each of you has a wonderful summer and is able to enjoy some much-needed rest in the coming months.