Arthur L. Caplan, PhD, Director of Medical Ethics, NYU Langone Medical Center

Q:  We now have an epidemic of physician burnout.” What is your perspective?

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA:

A:  Medicine is a profession in which emotional well-being is sorely lacking. The suicide and burnout rate is very high and this is concerning to me because we’re at a point in our country where we need more physicians, not fewer. If we have people experiencing burnout, it goes against our needs. I am particularly interested in how to cultivate emotional well-being for our healthcare providers. If these professionals aren’t well, it’s hard for them to heal the people for whom they are caring. Based on the science developed over the years, we know that emotional well-being is an important driver of health. People might think that emotional well-being is something that just happens to you—things line up in your life: you have the right job, you’re in good health, and you have healthy family relationships. But there’s a growing body of science that tells us there are many things we can do individually to develop our emotional well-being proactively, that in turn, can have a positive impact on our health. Promoting well-being does not require reinventing the wheel. There are already worthwhile programs focused on emotional well-being that have significant outcomes for health and education, but people just don’t know about them. Sharing success stories is going to be an important part of expanding our prevention efforts.

Derived from a conversation with Joyce Frieden from