My friend, colleague, and entrepreneur, Marlene Wüst-Smith, MD, is multi-talented. As a pediatrician in practice for thirty years, she has served her patients and their families from exam rooms in rural America to school clinics to tele-health consults during the COVID-19 crisis. This year, she also merged her passion to protect the patient-physician relationship with her love of art and the written word to create Physician Outlook, an online and print magazine to encourage our colleagues while educating the public. Every issue is full of articles that highlight physicians doing great work on behalf of their patients to remove obstacles to care. Many are written by physicians like me who recognize the need to rescue medicine from bureaucratic intrusions so the business of healthcare stops invading our exam rooms and running the practice of medicine.
In Her Own Words
“In 2018, I left the comfort and security of a very well-paid employed position as a pediatrician and joined forces with other like-minded physicians on a mission to help ‘save’ health care from the bureaucracy it has become.”
When she first left employed practice, she was grateful to finally feel in charge of her career and work. While “employed one week per month at one of the best children’s hospitals in the country, the rest of the month (was) MY OWN. I no longer answer to those who place Profit over Patients.”
Like so many of us, she has been frustrated by the inefficiencies created by the electronic health record (EHR). In one of her past clinic settings, they “had to hire another pediatrician to see the same number of patients they’d been seeing due to the added workload the EHR produced. What used to take 2 seconds to write now took upwards of 2 minutes and multiple clicks.” Beyond the time lost in front of a computer that could be spent in direct patient care, “misinformation abounded in electronic medical problem lists.” With longing and hope, we look forward to the day when obstacles like inadequate EHRs are replaced by tools designed to support our work as we care for people and improve rather than hinder patient care.
A few years ago, Dr. Wüst-Smith recognized it was time to make changes in her work to protect her patients, her medical license, and her sanity. She decided to pursue locum tenens work once she realized this type of practice is not what it used to be. “The ‘new breed’ of locum were by and large a cohort of passionate, excellent doctors who had gotten fed up with the system. As I got to know each of them, I learned that they had voluntarily decided to give up the security of employed practice to travel and feel useful in a system that had come to treat them like replaceable data entry clerks.” As physicians, we’ve been forced to tread new waters to escape the dangerous lack of autonomy that’s now rampant in many employed settings.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Wüst-Smith is grateful for the flexibility tele-medicine offers so she can continue to care for children and support their families while advocating for patients and our medical profession at the national level. “My eventual goal,” she explains, “is to become a Direct Care Tele-medicine Physician specializing in children with special health care needs and children in families who travel often.”
I have traveled to Washington, DC to advocate alongside Dr. Wüst-Smith and am thrilled Physician Outlook magazine is now available. Thank you, Marlene, for your tireless work for children, families, and the patient-physician relationship. With people like you advocating for change and helping unify our profession, I know we’ll continue to transform medicine not only for our patients but also so we may all recapture the joy of practicing medicine.
To subscribe to Physician Outlook, please follow this link. I can’t wait to get my next copy in the mail!
Together we can accomplish so much more. I’m glad you’re here!
Follow these links to read recent articles published in Physician Outlook. To receive the magazine digitally and/or in your home or office mailbox, subscribe HERE.
My Colleagues Are Nervous by Ashley Sumrall, MD, who writes, “Physicians from various hospital systems are working together (during the COVID-19 pandemic) for the common good of our communities … the way medicine should be.”
Addressing the Healthcare Crisis by Dr. Katherine Barton
Cooking with your kids – the unchore by Dr. Marion Mass
Pandemic Passover by Dr. Marlene Wüst-Smith
Falling by Dr. Christina Dewey
I’m grateful to Physician Outlook for including me in their spotlight section and publishing an excerpt from my latest book, Recapturing Joy in Medicine. Enjoy the magazine and let others know about this timely resource by sharing this post!