Medical conferences feel like funerals. Here’s why.

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A friend just got back from a big medical conference at a fancy hotel. The cleaning ladies actually pulled her aside to ask, “What’s with all the grim faces and sad eyes?”

Do doctors realize medical conferences look like funerals? That’s what the cleaning ladies think. I bet they’re not the only ones.

Why do medical conferences feel like funerals? Maybe because doctors are dying by suicide at twice the rate of their patients.

Why?

The truth is doctors are dying from despair.

I attend lots of conferences. Writing conferences. Entrepreneurial conferences. Marketing conferences. I’m fueled by the energy and enthusiasm of authors, entrepreneurs, and business people who are so darn passionate about what they do in the world.

But I avoid medical conferences, and here’s why: the energy is low. Doctors look depressed, defeated, checked out. I’m naturally a hypomanic optimistic, and even I have to admit—most medical conferences make me feel sad.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the hotels. Meals are superb. My pillow is nice and fluffy. The medical content is enriching. But the doctors look miserable. I could reference their clinical symptoms in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), but if the cleaning ladies are so worried about us that they’re questioning our mental health, maybe we should stop diagnosing patients for a moment and examine ourselves.

Health care is making doctors sick. Even suicidal.

I was once a depressed and suicidal doctor. I thought I was the only one. Now I know depression and suicidal thoughts are an occupational hazard of the medical profession. Let’s face the facts: it’s depressing to be surrounded by sick people all day without enough time to care for them — or ourselves — in 7-minute office visits. And if we seek mental health care, we face real retribution and license restrictions.

Doctors are fed up with assembly-line medicine. The solution I found for my own despair is simple. I went from suicidal to successfully self-employed in six weeks! I took a leap of faith and invited my community to design their very own medical clinic! In less than 30 days, we opened the first ideal clinic designed entirely by patients. I’ve never been happier.

Since opening our community clinic ten years ago, I’ve helped doctors open ideal clinics all across America. In my travels, I meet lots of physician entrepreneurs. They all have one thing in common: They’re happy!

Our medical training doesn’t teach us the business skills we need to thrive as physicians today. Maybe doctors should attend fewer medical conferences and more entrepreneurial and marketing events. Hang out with happy people who love their careers and see what we can glean from them.

For now, I’m going to continue to do my continuing medical education online.

Pamela Wible pioneered the community-designed ideal medical clinic and blogs at Ideal Medical Care. She is the author of Pet Goats and Pap Smears. Watch her TEDx talk, How to Get Naked with Your Doctor.

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