Paving the way for tomorrow's teachers

Many physicians experience work-related burnout, but it's a problem that may have solutions. Birmingham-based ProAssurance Corporation established a faculty position in the UAB School of Medicine that will investigate and promote physician wellness.

A 2014 Mayo Clinic survey found that more than half of physicians in the United States are experiencing work-related burnout—a worsening problem that can impact patient care, not to mention their own health.

It’s not a problem without solutions, however. With a generous $1.5-million gift from Birmingham-based ProAssurance Corporation, the UAB School of Medicine has established the ProAssurance Chair for Physician Wellness, the first academic chair of its kind in the nation. The funding also supports a research team dedicated to addressing health issues unique to physicians as they face stress and pressures associated with providing patient care in a rapidly evolving healthcare environment.

“Physicians have always been subject to high levels of stress from a variety of factors, such as society’s expectations for successful outcomes, the threat of litigation, and the effects of professional obligations on the quality of their lives and their families’ lives,” says ProAssurance Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stan Starnes.

“As medicine evolves to address the changing dynamic of health care in America, we must find ways to address these pressures.”

From Burnout to Balance

The groundbreaking chair enables UAB to recruit an expert in the field of physician wellness who can implement interventions and provide trainees with tools and resources to manage stress and burnout, says UAB President Ray L. Watts, M.D. He adds that UAB “is committed to providing our physicians, residents, fellows, and trainees the same type of world-class care they provide for the citizens of Alabama and beyond every day.”

Starnes says ProAssurance expects to give an additional $500,000 for various initiatives supporting physician wellness. ProAssurance’s chief medical officer, Hayes V. Whiteside, M.D., says such programs are a logical extension of the company’s role. “Assisting physicians has always been a high priority for ProAssurance,” he says. “Now more than ever, we need to ensure that today’s physicians maintain their commitment to their high calling, and those future physicians are equipped to deal with the realities of their vital chosen profession.” “Doctors who take care of themselves are better role models for their patients and for their children, have higher patient satisfaction and safety scores, experience less stress and burnout, and live longer,” adds Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS, senior vice president of medicine and dean of UAB’s School of Medicine. By enhancing training programs, ProAssurance’s gift “will create a sustainable culture of wellness.”

Cultivating Nurse Leaders

In addition, ProAssurance is making a contribution to the UAB School of Nursing that will enhance the future of nursing care in Alabama. “Nurses are a crucial part of the care delivery team in our state, and their role will become increasingly important as our health - care delivery systems expand to meet the demands that will come with the exponential growth of an aging population,” Starnes says. The changing patient profile, along with health care’s evolving landscape, “demand a fundamental shift in the health-care system to provide patient-centered care,” says Doreen Harper, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, dean and Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair in UAB’s School of Nursing. “More nurses will be needed to deliver primary care and community care, ensure seamless care, foster interprofessional collaboration, and enable all health professionals to practice to the full extent of their education, training, and competencies. This shift will result in reduced errors, increased safety, and the highest quality of patient care. We are delighted and appreciative that ProAssurance is providing support to help us shape patient-centered health care by preparing recognized nurse leaders who excel as clinicians, researchers, and educators in Alabama, nationally, and internationally.”

Learn more about supporting physician wellness at the School of Medicine: Erica Hollins, senior director of development, (205) 996-6839, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..