June 20, 2019
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Wellness Physician Leadership
Name:Tait Shanafelt, M.D.
Specialty:Hematology and Oncology
Tait Shanafelt, M.D., is all too familiar with the burnout that physicians around the country experience. Nearly 20 years ago, after witnessing the effects of burnout on colleagues as a resident at the University of Washington, he conducted a seminal research study evaluating the relationship between physician burnout and quality of care. That study led to myriad follow-up studies and over 125 peer-reviewed publications on physician well-being. For the last two decades Shanafelt has been the national thought leader on prevention of physician burnout. It is thus fitting that in 2017 he was appointed Chief Wellness Officer at Stanford Medicine, the first academic institution in the country to establish such a role.
As a pioneer in burnout prevention and promotion of professional fulfillment, Dr. Shanafelt recognized early in his career its impact on physician performance and quality of care. His research made it clear that burnout wasn’t simply a problem for physicians; it directly impacted patients through its effect on quality of care. In 2007, Dr. Shanafelt became the founding director of the Mayo Clinic Department of Medicine Program on Physician Well-being, a clinical laboratory evaluating both individual and organizational approaches to improve physician well-being. Over the next decade, he helped lead numerous studies and system based interventions designed to improve physician well-being.
Dr. Shanafelt’s approach is unique in its focus on addressing organizational reform. Rather than suggesting the solution to physician burnout is to improve personal resilience, his studies and interventions have focused on working with health organizations to implement institutional changes that improve efficiency in the practice environment and address problems with culture of health care organizations that contribute to the problem.
In addition to his role at Stanford’s WellMD Center, Dr. Shanafelt aims to disseminate effective interventions and to catalyze change at organizations around the country.
Joining this effort is the California Medical Association (CMA), which recently announced it would be collaborating with Dr. Shanafelt and his colleague Mickey Trockel, M.D., to launch the most comprehensive effort in the country to increase physician wellness as a vehicle to improve the quality of care they provide patients.
“This collaboration will implement a comprehensive approach to promote the wellness of California’s physicians,” said Dr. Shanafelt. “Given the strong links between physician distress and the care they provide patients, we believe improving physician wellness benefits not only physicians, but the patients and communities they serve.”