The Lost Tribe of Medicine

It seems as though the medical profession has lost its sense of community.

I can remember opening my medical school acceptance letter. I was, of course, excited to go down a lifelong career pathway. But I also felt joy at knowing that I was accepted into a tribe of international doctors that would welcome me anywhere in the world, who spoke a common language and had a common culture and ethos. A sense of community and belonging is important to a person’s mental health.

The reality is something else. Unfortunately, in many ways, the medical tribe has become fractious and unaccepting. The results are burnout, depression, disenchantment, and fragmentation of power.

Examples include:

1. Medical education and training that some have described as abusive.

2. Turf wars.

3. Jealousy, greed, and resentment for those who want to upset the apple cart, potentially threatening the cash cow and status quo.

4. Marginalizing disruptive doctors.

5. Subconscious or implicit bias against colleagues based on race, gender or other factors.

6. Hostility between MD and non-MD “providers.”

7. Pushback against scope of practice creep.

8. Specialists versus generalists.

9. Grunts versus physician executives and administrators.

10. Conflicts in interprofessional relations and care teams.

Here are 10 reasons why doctors don't play nice with others.

Plus, all doctors have multiple affiliations and are more engaged with some of those affiliations than others. For example, they have varying levels of engagement with their employer, their specialty association, or their local, regional, or national medical association. Most tend to go where they are treated best and drop or ignore the others.

Many of us, particularly those who have served in the military, recall with fondness those times we shared with “foxhole buddies,” eg, residency training, project teams, and shock and trauma units. We also remember circumstances, like following mass killings or natural disasters, when the entire community came together.

In many places, doctors have lost their sense of community and attachment to the tribe. They need a hug.