Physician ignition: Promoting physician wellness through CME

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 66, No. 5, June 2024, Pages 147,149 Letters

The 69th Annual St. Paul’s Hospital CME Conference for Primary Care Physicians was held in Vancouver 21–24 November 2023. Close to 1000 family doctors and medical residents attended in person, and 500 attended virtually from all over North America. The dynamic planning committee innovated and led with a variety of wellness initiatives to engage and energize participants. By incorporating physician mental and physical health, we help doctors have the agency to treat patients more effectively.

Using an app to pose a daily question, we sparked discussions related to workplace and physician wellness. On day 1, we asked participants what advice they would give to a new medical graduate. The following is a collection of answers that I wish someone had discussed with me earnestly 22 years ago.

  • Don’t be scared to ask a colleague for their opinion.
  • Hold boundaries when answering the phone and emails.
  • Have self-compassion. You can be good enough—a good physician, a good person—while making mistakes. We are also human beings.
  • Never finish a vacation without planning the next one.

Professional fulfillment was another conference theme. The following pearls shared by physicians are some of the constructs that bring meaning to our work and give us purpose. On day 2, participants were asked what aspect of their work makes them feel most fulfilled. These are some of the answers:

  • Connecting with patients and developing a strong relationship.
  • The goal of leaving the patient feeling reassured, validated, and genuinely understood.
  • When patients take time to express their gratitude, it fills my emotional bucket.
  • It is nice to hear positive feedback from specialists and colleagues.

As health care has become more complex, working in teams is essential for better patient care. Teamwork allows physicians to focus on the “doctoring” and can be fulfilling by supporting and being supported by other health care workers. On day 3, we asked participants to share best practices that help teams thrive in health care. These are some of the responses:

  • Communication. Always explain why—everyone needs motivation and reasoning.
  • Knowing your limit and when to ask for help is important.
  • Define roles and let your team members shine in their roles. Positive feedback and appreciation go a long way!
  • Regularly check in on each team member. This will encourage the team to speak freely about how they are feeling and for everyone to be on the same page.

We also hosted an ideas board outside the main conference hall where wellness tips were posted. Daily polls and word clouds were used prior to the start of half days and were viewed by all participants on a big screen in the main lecture hall. 

The transformation of CME has begun with new and innovative methods to promote physician wellness throughout medical education. Having a sense of community among health care providers is crucial for listening, sharing ideas, and feeling supported and valued.

This was the start of what I call CME 2.0. Medical education and conferences are more than academics. These concepts are crucial to support and develop a thriving family doctor. I can’t wait for CME 3.0 in 2024. I want to change physician burnout to physician ignite!
—Daniel Y. Dodek, MD, CCFP, FCFP
St. Paul’s Hospital CME Conference for Primary Care Physicians, Physician Lead Wellness


Special thanks to St. Paul’s Hospital CME Committee co-chairs Drs D. Ngui and T. Wasserfall and members Drs N. Strydom, R. Low, N. Levitt, L. McFarlane, C. Ryan, N. Baria, A. Villaruel, H. Chang, K. Rutherford, and C. Iturra.


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Daniel Y. Dodek, MD, CCFP, FCFP. Physician ignition: Promoting physician wellness through CME. BCMJ, Vol. 66, No. 5, June, 2024, Page(s) 147,149 - Letters.

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