ABOIM Founding Board Member and ABPS Diplomate Hilary McClafferty, MD, Discusses Mindfulness in Medicine

Hilary McClafferty, MDPhysician wellness is a notably complex issue. To best understand it, it’s important to acknowledge that several factors must be present for physicians to realize professional fulfillment and avoid burnout. According to researchers at Stanford University, these are:

  • A “culture of wellness,” or one that fosters good leadership, the alignment of values, a sense of community, and a feeling of being appreciated
  • Efficiency of practice, with regard to electronic health records, team-based care, scheduling, and triage
  • Personal resilience, which is related to self-care, compassion, meaning in work, work-life integration, and emotional flexibility

Although institutional and organizational factors play a critical role in burnout, it has been well-established that simply addressing personal resilience is not the solution to wellness. Mindfulness is a promising tool for individuals to explore.

The fact that an ancient meditative practice can reduce burnout may surprise physicians, who are classically trained to separate spirituality and medicine. But research shows that mindfulness can be used effectively in a variety of clinical settings.

In the late 1970s, John Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., introduced mindfulness research to mainstream medicine in a program for patients living with chronic pain. Kabat-Zinn has described mindfulness as “paying attention with moment-to-moment awareness, on purpose, in a particular way, without judgment.” Today, his mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course is typically taught as an eight-week program that combines a variety of mind-body therapies such as breath work, progressive muscle relaxation, mindful eating, mindful movement, yoga, and meditation.

Studies involving pain and oncology patients reveal a correlation between mindfulness practice and improved quality of life, as well as decreased anxiety, depression, and use of prescription pain medication. Furthermore, MBSR has gained broad acceptance in the medical community, with nearly 80% of the 140 accredited medical schools or their associated university programs in the United States incorporating mindfulness practice into clinical treatment, as well as educational and research programs.

With regard to physician wellness, mindfulness practice seeks to enhance a sense of self-efficacy and cultivate an internal locus of control, both of which are traits closely associated with personal resilience. For physicians, mindfulness has been shown to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase self-awareness
  • Improve listening and attentiveness
  • Lead to more thoughtful decision-making
  • Increase adaptive reserves
  • Reduce rumination

To promote wellness, physicians can practice mindfulness in a number of ways, whether pausing to center themselves before entering a patient’s room, or using mindfulness techniques applicable to settings such as the surgical suite, emergency department, or the ICU.

The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA, is an excellent resource for information about mindfulness. Click here to visit the center’s website.

As an evidence-based wellness practice, mindfulness is espoused by physicians certified in integrative medicine through the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM). To learn about certification with the ABOIM, a Member Board of the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS), contact the ABPS today.

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On October 18, 2007, President George W. Bush released Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD-21), calling on our nation, among other initiatives, to “collectively support and facilitate the establishment of a discipline of disaster health”. It is a great testament to the wisdom and foresight of the American Board of Physician Specialties that it immediately set to work and created, within the short span of only one year, an educational blueprint and set of certification examinations, both written and oral, for a new subspecialty of disaster medicine—and it is why I chose to be part this vital initiative and this wonderful organization. This is but one of the many innovative programs initiated by the American Board of Physician Specialties over the years, and why I am proud to support its work on behalf of our nation’s public health.

Art Cooper, MD
Disaster Medicine
When the American Board of Physician Specialties offered to host the American Board of Integrative Medicine, ABPS became a landmark organization working to move medicine into the twenty first century. Certifying physicians who have completed rigorous academic training in Integrative Medicine ensures that the field of Integrative Medicine will continue to develop academically, clinically, and professionally. The leadership of ABPS continues to impress me - they are diligent in constantly innovating to provide certifications for physicians who want to advance their careers and their areas of expertise. I am honored to be a part of this organization.

Ann Marie Chiasson, MD
Integrative Medicine
There are many ways board certification advances a physician career. ABPS Board examination verifies your accuracy, precision, and reflects your mastery of your residency training verifying your expertise. ABPS Board certification demonstrates your level of expertise beyond your practice experience, primary education degrees, and training which are necessary for insurance reimbursement and practice privilege requirements. Attaining your ABPS Board Certification will clarify your purpose, secure your practice growth, and expand into leadership positions. Board certification can serve as an indication of a physician’s commitment to medicine, beyond the minimal standards and competency of training, their measurement to quality of care, and attaining an award for excellence.

Chris Kunis MD
Internal Medicine
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Jerry Allison, MD
Emergency Medicine
When I decided to pursue a full time role as a physician executive it was important to me to obtain additional professional training, education and work experience. Board certification through the ABPS in Administrative Medicine is validation of my efforts and a demonstration of dedication to professional development. We need more physicians to become full time health care executives, knowing there is a board certification option in Administrative Medicine encourages physicians to take the leap from full time clinical practice to healthcare organizational leadership.

Richard Paula, MD
Administrative Medicine
The American Board of Physician Specialties has provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of internal medicine through board certification. As a hospitalist, board certification is an expected credential, and hospitals recognize the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) as one of the three standard credentialling bodies for Internal Medicine. Additionally, the ABPS has helped me develop leadership skills as a Board member and Committee Chairperson. ABPS has also helped me sharpen critical thinking skills as a test question developer and reviewer. The Allopathic (MD) and Osteopathic (DO) physicians in the ABPS are lifelong learners and frequently pursue multiple board certifications. I enjoy the camaraderie of my peers in ABPS.

Loren Jay Chassels, DO
Internal Medicine