An Institution’s Responsibility to a Public Physician

February 5, 2013

RostrumWe talk a lot about the responsibility of doctors to respect a certain standard when it comes to their public presence.  I’ve suggested that we’re accountable to our communities, colleagues and our patients.  Extreme views and rogue behavior have a way of reflecting badly on those around us.

The question then becomes, what responsibility do institutions, colleagues and patients have to physicians with a voice?  Is there any level of acceptance that must occur once we realize that doctors no longer represent the stereotype that we’ve been used to?

While physicians must see their role in a larger organization, the larger organization must recognize the role of the physician in public.  This involves:

  • Respecting a physician’s individual right to express, build, create, curate, converse and advocate.  Doctor means ‘teacher.’
  • Embracing the unique brilliance of every physician voice with the understanding that it can be matched with a community in which that voice resonates and thrives.
  • Recognize the value of dialog as the new means by which information is delivered.

Ultimately this comes down to institutional acceptance of how the world is changing.  Doctors are nothing like they were once portrayed and there’s no longer one way to see a physician.

That’s what everyone else needs to understand.


Justin Smith February 5, 2013 at 9:43 pm

I have found that through my blog and social media, I have found connection with patients on a deep and meaningful level. Patients have continually expressed their appreciation for what I do. This is initially why I started interacting in these ways.

What is a surprise and I think fits with the message of your post is that through my interactions via blogging and social media, I have discovered and positively refined the messages (“my voice”) I want to send to patients both in “virtual” and traditional conversations.

Justin Smith February 5, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Had intended to mention…

BCM/TCH Residency Graduate 2009…Thanks for bringing TCH along with you in the social medial realm.

DrV February 5, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Very nice, Justin.

Scott Rosenberg of via Howard Rheingold’s book, Net Smart offered an interesting comment on making things like blog posts:

“Learning to make things changes how we understand and consume those things. . . . Writing for an audience is a special and important sub-case: it’s writing with feedback and consequences. Doing it yourself changes how you think about it and how you evaluate others’ efforts. The now-unfashionable word “empowerment” describes a part of that change: writing is a way of discovering one’s voice and feeling its strength. But writing in public involves discovering the boundaries and limits of that power, too. We learn all the different ways in which we are not the center of the universe. So when I hear the still-commonplace dismissal of blogging as a trivial pastime or an amateurish hobby, I think, hold on a second. Writing— making texts— changes how we read and think. Every blogger (at least every blogger that wasn’t already a writer) is someone who has learned to read the world differently. The person who has struggled to turn a thought into a blog post, and then seen how that post has been reflected back by readers and other bloggers, is someone who can think more creatively about how sharing might work at other scales and in other contexts. A mind that has changed is more likely to imagine a world that can change.”

Jim Salwitz February 6, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Speaking as the husband of a politician, doctors must realize that the opposite is also true. It is a tough world out there and not everyone wears kid gloves. It is important to understand that it is all part of the conversation about how to make health care, and our world, a little better. However, occassionally, it does sting.


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