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Student Editorials

Doctors' health

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/sbmj.0812432 (Published 01 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:0812432
  1. Joan M Brewster, assistant professor1
  1. 1Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, M5T 3M7, Canada

Healthy doctors make for healthy practice, says Joan M Brewster

Four recent studies in the BMJ from three countries look at the health of doctors (doi:10.1136/bmj.a2004; doi:10.1136/bmj.a2155; doi:10.1136/bmj.a2038; doi:10.1136/bmj.a2098). Their publication coincides with the International Conference on Doctors' Health took place in November in London.1 Frank and colleagues report on medical students' use of alcohol and counselling of patients regarding alcohol in the United States.2 Isaksson Rø and colleagues find a reduction in burnout in Norwegian doctors' after a counselling intervention,3 and McLellan and colleagues present outcomes from doctors monitored for substance use disorders by 16 US state physician health programmes.4 Brewster and colleagues report outcomes for substance dependent doctors monitored by such a programme in Ontario, Canada.5 All of the papers, in one way or another, reflect a concern with the association between doctors' health and their medical practice.

Impaired practice

The treatment of sick doctors has a history of association with a reduction in impaired practice.6 Indeed, the medical sociologist Gerry Stimson postulated that the “impaired physician movement” in the US arose as a method of professional control by defining problems such as …

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