Physician Thriving: Let’s Look Out for Each Other

By Hilary McClafferty, MD, FAAP

September 17th was the third annual National Physician Suicide Prevention Day. On this day, I reflected on the colleagues I have lost over the years to suicide, one at nearly every stage of my training and practice in medicine. One is too many, more than one is tragic, and an estimated 400 annually in the US is simply unacceptable. If you or someone you know, work with, or love is struggling, do not hesitate to reach out for help. A simple human connection and expression of awareness and support may be the catalyst for change. If you don’t know what to say, simply connect for a coffee or schedule a brief check in because it has been a while since you talked. Keep it simple, straightforward. Or you might say “I noticed you’ve been more tired recently” (or grumpy, or overworked, or stressed) or “I am concerned and wanted to see how you are doing.” The worst that can happen is that they don’t engage, or wave you off, or gloss over their distress, but the act of reaching out is important. Do not give up on a colleague in distress. The flip side of this is the colleague who seems fine on the surface, but who is in real distress underneath. If this is you, you must make a safety plan immediately. Reach out to your resource people today, or explore the resources available to you, today. You are not alone, you are important, part of an extraordinary community of healers, and a precious human life. Write out a safety plan and follow it. What do you need to do right now to keep yourself safe? Start there and do it. Let us look out for each other and be the ones that shine a light into these dark places and challenge the outdated culture of medicine by stepping up when called to be the change that is needed.



Hilary McClafferty, MD, FAAP, is board certified in pediatrics, pediatric emergency medicine, and integrative medicine. She writes and speaks nationally on physician wellbeing, resiliency, and physician wellness. She is a member of the International Coach Federation, certified physician coach and author of two books: Mind-Body Medicine in Clinical Practice and Integrative Pediatrics: Art, Science, and Clinical Application. She practices pediatric emergency medicine and is host of the popular podcast Physician Thriving. 

Email:      Web:      Twitter: @drmcclafferty


If you missed a previous “Physician Thriving” column, click here to view the archive.

Save the Date
House of Delegates & Annual Scientific Meeting
Innovation & Overcoming Challenges
June 10-15, 2022
Patient Care Is Our Priority

Medical organizations throughout North America understand that our rigorous certification standards prove that ABPS Diplomates are capable of delivering the best patient care possible.

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
When I think historically, advancement in medicine and patient safety and care has been driven by the diversity of people and scientific thought. That’s what I found at the ABPS and more. For over 60 years that is just who we are. I found a physician certifying body that provides a choice and voice to all physicians ensuring that patients are always placed first.

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