New Position: “Chief Physician Wellness Officer”

 In Naturopathic News

Stanford Medical Center is the first academic medical center in the country to create a position exclusively for physician wellness, addressing concerns such as burnout and sense of fulfillment.1 Tait Shanafelt, MD, will join Stanford Medicine as the “chief wellness officer” on September 1, 2017. Dr. Shanafelt is a recognized leader in physician wellness, and he will lead Stanford’s pioneering program in this area.

Physician Burnout

Physician burnout is at a recognized high in the country. With more than half of physicians reporting emotional exhaustion, a loss of meaning in their work, and a sense of ineffectiveness.2 Shanafelt has had success leading initiatives to counter burnout as well as improve a sense of fulfillment and well-being among physicians at the Mayo Clinic. He has focused on the implications of these elements on the quality of care delivered to patients, finding that as physicians suffer from higher and higher stress, so do their patients.

Calling for an Emulation of Stanford’s Efforts

Shanafelt’s thoughts are quoted in a press release from Stanford: “[M]ost healthcare leaders now realized this is a threat to their organization, but there is also uncertainty that they can do anything effective to address it.” He then continues by commenting on the question ‘what can we do?’ “[A]n individual organization that is committed to this at the highest level of leadership and that invests in well-designed interventions can move the needle and run counter to the national trend of physician distress and burnout.” He then calls for an emulation of Stanford’s efforts in this area.3,4

Tenure at Mayo Proved Positive in Reducing Physician Burnout

His previous work at Mayo showed a 7% reduction in physician burnout in 2 years, while the national average rose 11%.5 It is certainly time to begin considering the types of ideas and initiatives being suggested by Shanafelt, and others.

Possible ND Niche for those Interested in Conventional Academic Centers

Naturopathic physicians are gaining more and more traction within the conventional medical community, as our education and expertise is being recognized. This could very well be a niche for NDs who are interested in working within conventional academic centers.


  1. Press Release
  2. Levin KH, Shanafelt TD, Keran CM, et al. Burnout, career satisfaction, and well-being among US neurology residents and fellows in 2016. Neurology. 2017
  3. Shanafelt T, Swensen S. Leadership and Physician Burnout: Using the Annual Review to Reduce Burnout and Promote Engagement. Am J Med Qual. 2017;:1062860617691605.
  4. Swensen SJ, Shanafelt T. An Organizational Framework to Reduce Professional Burnout and Bring Back Joy in Practice. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2017;43(6):308-313.
  5. Shanafelt TD, Noseworthy JH. Executive Leadership and Physician Well-being: Nine Organizational Strategies to Promote Engagement and Reduce Burnout. Mayo Clin Proc. 2017;92(1):129-146.
Image Copyright: <a href=’’>ocskaymark / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision. 

Recommended Posts

Start typing and press Enter to search