Senior physician survey not a true reflection of younger colleagues' dedication

LETTER — Posted March 1, 2004

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Regarding "Younger doctors less dedicated, hardworking?" (Article, Feb. 2): It is unfortunate that a small study regarding the perspective of physicians age 50 to 65 years was chosen for the front page of AMNews.

The comments supporting the findings of the study imply that the research was valid, but the small survey size and low response rate bring into question the study's credibility. Furthermore, such a divisive piece pitting generations against each other is ill-timed, since the medical profession more than ever needs to unify.

On behalf of the AMA Young Physicians Section Governing Council, I would like to acknowledge that there have been many changes in the practice of medicine over the last several years. Physician autonomy has decreased while hassles have skyrocketed. Advances in technology have increased life expectancy yet created more complex problems in patients. It is no wonder that the model of practice that worked in the past is no longer valid.

Physicians of all ages are choosing various practice characteristics to balance professional and personal lives, keep up with technology and maintain financial viability. These practice choices may include working in a large group or as an employee, adopting flexible or reduced hours, or choosing an alternative medical career that does not involve direct patient care. Physicians are discovering creative ways to maintain the quality and continuity of care while also taking care of themselves. These choices are made to balance dual working couples, to balance family responsibilities and to avoid high-risk behaviors including substance abuse and mental health problems.

We believe the negative attitudes depicted in the article do not accurately reflect the opinions of all "older" physicians. After all, most of us work alongside our more senior colleagues, and we feel that the intergenerational relationships are extremely positive. We all work very hard and care about our patients, no matter what our age, gender or lifestyle choice. Being physicians is not a competition, so let's not turn it into one.

Jennifer A. Shu, MD, chair, AMA Young Physicians Section

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/03/01/edlt0301.htm.

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