Why 5 physicians are remaining optimistic about medicine

Rising supply costs, ongoing burnout and inadequate pay policies have all contributed to career dissatisfaction among a growing number of physicians. Despite the negative aspects of practicing medicine, many physicians remain optimistic about the future.

Becker's connected with five physicians to find out what about the field of medicine is fueling their positive outlook about healthcare.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: Why are you staying optimistic about medicine?

Michael Davis, MD. Chief of Urology and Surgical Director of the Renal Transplant Program at UNM Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque. Although the healthcare industry has seen many challenges over the past several years, I remain optimistic about medicine. There are various reasons I have optimism that medicine will see continued rapid progress in technology, drug development and advances in treatment. 

Examples of technology in healthcare, such as digital imaging, the EHR and now artificial intelligence are many of the innovations that have occurred over the past two and a half decades. We now await the development and evolution of AI integrated into the EHR for data assimilation, analysis and the ability to ease practice administrative burdens. I look forward to the future of AI and its impact on healthcare. If adoption of the electronic health record is any example, the ability of the healthcare industry to adopt a new technology such as AI may be decades before being ready for prime time.

Drug development has seen great strides in medications for use in cancer, such as checkpoint inhibitors. Also, now the revolution in medications for obesity, the GLP-1 classes of medications have been shown to have multipurpose uses besides diabetes and weight loss. The use of technology will decrease the time to drug development and likely increase the diversity of medications available for a number of different diseases. Twenty years ago, it would have been hard to believe these drugs would be available. It would seem that the future of drug development is very exciting.

Finally, as a renal transplant surgeon, I have wondered if there would ever be a time when organs could be available without the human tragedy that often accompanies organ donation. Although living donation is an option, there is a scarcity of donors, and most patients rely on the cadaveric donor supply. The shortage of organs remains as people often wait years to finally receive a transplant. The blending of genetic engineering and immunology has finally made xenografts an alternative that could be the next phase of transplantation. This would be an alternative to many patients if clinical trials prove to be successful. Preemptive transplant could decrease the need for dialysis in patients with severe chronic kidney disease. I am excited and hopeful that at some point in the not-too-distant future I will be able to transplant these xenograft organs into recipients. This gives me great optimism.

Healthcare continues to evolve; some areas are progressing faster than others. Despite these great advances, they all come with costs. The best way to decrease the overall cost to the system is healthcare prevention. Now more than ever before, population health data can be collected and analyzed. Prevention will hopefully be as important as some of the other topics discussed, although not as profitable. 

My opinion is healthcare is an industry that still awaits disruptive innovation in many areas. I remain optimistic for the future of medicine.

Dean Frate, MD. Chief Medical Officer - Hospitals and President of Medical Staff at Summa Health (Akron, Ohio). My optimism about medicine stems from personal belief in the goals of medicine and evidence that as we learn we are more and more successful at improving population and individual health and quality of life.

The practice of medicine, I am hopeful, is at the far pendulum swing with respect to the increasing mass of regulation weighing down and bounding the compassionate delivery of effective care. There appears to be growing recognition among our legislators and in the public domain that the process of providing healthcare cannot continue to be regulated toward increasing and unavoidable operational costs at the same time as the return that it generates is sequentially reduced, without also decimating the financial survivability of the same organizations that have created remarkable societal benefits. That expanding recognition is encouraging and gives me reason to expect the gravity that is respect for and value of human health and wellbeing has begun to slow the pendulum and with the pull of citizens and legislators will right it to a more balanced, more survivable, more sustainable position.

Michael Gomez, MD. NICU Medical Director at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Orlando (Fla.) Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. I’ve been in practice for more than 30 years, and while technological advances and innovations in diagnostics and treatment are offering new ways to diagnose, treat, and cure illness, it's the people IN medicine that keep me most optimistic about medicine. 

Medicine has always attracted exceptional intellectual talent, and when that talent is coupled with compassion and kindness, it can create an outstanding healing environment. 

Contemporary physicians and medical professionals are more cognizant of their need for a supportive professional environment to maintain their mental edge, compassion and kindness, and the field is responding by developing resources that can help sustain the profession.   

I see more physicians and other clinicians engaging in health leadership activities who acutely recognize the items above and are reshaping medicine into a more positive experience for both patients and clinicians despite the regulatory and payer environments that can create significant burdens.

While medicine has changed in 30 years, the people in medicine today have a wonderful opportunity to lead it to a very positive place by staying fully engaged with excellent health outcomes always leading the way.

Nikhilesh Korgaonkar, MD. Vice President at WellSpan Health and Chief Medical Officer at WellSpan Cancer Institute (York, Pa.). I'm staying optimistic about medicine — and, in fact, have never been more optimistic — because we are a profession that learns. I can't think of a profession with a stronger growth mindset than medicine, and when we put that mindset in service of patients, colleagues and communities there's every reason to believe we'll keep our trajectory of ever-faster advancements, just as we've been doing for millennia.

Scott Needle, MD. Chief Medical Officer at Woodland Clinic Medical Group (Davis, Calif.). We need to acknowledge that healthcare today is challenging — clinicians face ever-increasing demands, scrutiny, and performance metrics. Burnout is on the rise, fueled in part by increasing mistrust towards our profession, and sometimes even hostility. AI is a potential disruptor — will it help ease burdens, as its boosters promise, or will it simply create more tasks and risks while threatening our role?

I remain optimistic about the future of medicine because I see the challenges being offset by positive trends: 

The relationships with our patients are still what bring us the most joy, and this won't change in the future. Medicine is about helping people. What we do is worthwhile and makes a difference - if we remember these core ideas we'll always be able to find satisfaction.

Expanding perspectives give us the opportunity to see and treat the whole person: medically, socially, behaviorally, even culturally. It's all interrelated. We can make far more of an impact in patients' lives than ever before.

At Woodland Clinic Medical Group we're developing new team-based integrated care models that help the clinicians effectively do that. No one person has to do everything — collectively, we share the load, support each other, and learn from each other. We can make more of a difference to patients as a team working together.

Value-based payment models are on the rise — it's a payment system that recognizes the team-based approach and moves away from an outdated fee-for-service model where the only thing that counted was a face-to-face encounter with a physician. We're finally moving from productivity to value, where doing what's right for the patient can align with how we get paid.

The future lies in creating collaborative relationships with payers, public health and other stakeholders, where we start to work together to take care of an entire community, every single person in that community — the development of a true health system.

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