From the Editor

“‘I Couldn’t Do Anything’: The Virus and an E.R. Doctor’s Suicide.”

So headlines a long article on the life and death of a New York doctor who had excelled at medicine – Dr. Lorna Breen oversaw an ER department, and was studying in a dual degree master’s program at Cornell University – but died during the COVID-19 pandemic. The front-page story ran last weekend in The New York Times.

Physician suicide. It’s a weighty topic, one that typically wasn’t discussed much in the past, in part because of the reluctance of physicians to acknowledge their own problems. But how often does it occur and is there a gender gap?

This week, we consider a new paper by Dr. Dante Duarte (of Harvard Medical School) and his co-authors. While previous papers have been published in this area, Duarte et al. are ambitious: they do a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies published over the last four decades. In the JAMA Psychiatry paper, they find: “suicide standardized morality ratios were high in female physicians and low in male physicians after 1980…”

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The paper runs with an editorial by Drs. Katherine J. Gold (of the University of Michigan) and Thomas L. Schwenk (of the University of Nevada). Putting the paper in a larger context, they write: “Suicide prevention is a moral responsibility of the entire medical profession.”

And a quick word of welcome to PGY1 residents who are joining us this week as part of our continued partnership with 12 Canadian residency programs from coast to coast to coast.

DG

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