Study of OHSU clinician wellness program informs national conversation

January 19, 2017

Teaching hospitals and medical schools across the nation are evaluating proposed changes by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to prioritize trainee and physician well-being. Graduate Medical Education (GME) leaders are simultaneously learning about a decade-old treatment model here at OHSU.

Since 2004, the OHSU Resident and Faculty Wellness Program (RFWP) has provided free, comprehensive, and easily accessible counseling services to residents, fellows and primary School of Medicine faculty. Utilization of this program has increased steadily over the past 10 years; last year, more than 20 percent of residents/fellows and 9 percent of SoM faculty participated in the RFWP. Over the years, residents and faculty have referred peers and openly discussed how counseling helped them, indicating a shift in the medical culture here at OHSU. As one resident wrote on an anonymous survey, “this program is invaluable. If I had my way, I would make it a requirement for all residents to visit the RFWP at least once—so they could see if it helps them.”

To learn more about the RFWP or to schedule a meeting with the clinical team, see

In November at the ACGME Symposium on Physician Well-Being, Sydney Ey, Ph.D., associate director of the RFWP, spoke about OHSU’s efforts to lower barriers and increase physician access to personal health care. At the Journal of Graduate Medical Education’s invitation, Dr. Ey and colleagues* reported on the feasibility of implementing a comprehensive wellness and suicide prevention program in an academic medical center. This paper is featured in the December 2016 issue.

Read: Feasibility of a Comprehensive Wellness and Suicide Prevention Program: A Decade of Caring for Physicians in Training and Practice

“Medical trainees and physicians face numerous barriers to seeking professional mental health care, but our experience suggests that a comprehensive program is feasible and can help break down such barriers,” said Dr. Ey. “We’re grateful for OHSU’s ongoing investment in our program for over 12 years and GME leadership’s active support of our resident well-being initiatives. It’s exciting to be contributing to a national conversation on best practices for early identification and intervention with distressed physicians.”

The ACGME’s proposed changes equate well-being with resident competence, calling self-care “an important aspect of professionalism, and a skill that must be learned and nurtured in the context of other aspects of graduate medical education.” The ACGME solicited comments through Dec. 19; revisions to the common program requirements will be adopted for the 2017-18 academic year.

The national initiative to prevent medical trainee suicide also includes a video produced by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Mayo Clinic and premiered at the ACGME Symposium on Physician Well-Being.

The RFWP leadership with support of Risk Management, GME and OHSU hospital leadership recently developed another resource for OHSU SoM clinicians. The OHSU Peer Support Program ( assigns trained faculty peer supporters to reach out and offer confidential support “over a cup of coffee” to any clinical faculty, resident, and/or fellow who has experienced an adverse event or other professional challenge.

* OHSU School of Medicine authors include:

  • Patrick H. Brunett, M.D., clinical professor of emergency medicine and former associate dean for graduate medical education
  • Sydney Ey, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and associate director of the RFWP
  • Mark Kinzie, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and director of the psychiatry residency program
  • Mary Moffit, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the RFWP