President's Message

Mary McCarthy, MD
2019 - 2021 President

I first joined the Society as a medical student when it was called Multnomah County Medical Society. I have been involved in county and state, as well as my specialty associations my entire career. It has been a wonderful opportunity to network with my colleagues, influence policy and advocate for patient care. I have seen major changes in the practice of medicine over my career being more aware of the external pressures on our lives that have taken a toll on me and my colleagues.

Here is my hope for every MSMP Member, a goal for 2019 – 2021, which is best explained through the following story:

In 1991, I was fortunate enough to hear a presentation by Lawrence Hartman, MD, President-Elect of the American Psychiatric Association. He began his talk by asking, “Does anyone know the motto of a lifeguard?” His answer was, “First Save Yourself.”

In preparing my remarks, I went to the Red Cross training manual for Lifeguards but could not find this statement. I did find other statements on the internet such as “The first rule is to protect yourself. It's a judgement decision, of course.” Another comment I found was, “Under dangerous conditions it may be justifiable to not enter the water.” In the Red Cross Lifeguarding manual, it says, “Size-up the scene. When you size-up the scene, your goal is to determine if the scene is safe for you, other lifeguards, EMS personnel, the victim(s) and any bystanders. You should use your senses to check for hazards that could present a danger to you or the victim…”

The 2019 American National Red Cross website says, “Before administering care to an ill or injured person, check the scene and the person. Size-up the scene and form an initial impression.

Dr. Hartman’s statement has stuck in the frontal cortex of my mind for years.

My hope is that every MSMP Member will “save yourself, so you are able to help others.”

As medical practice has been more and more controlled by government regulation, HIPAA, the courts and big medical care systems, the pressures have come down on us.

Here is one of my personal stories. In psychiatry, inpatient practice is often controlled by the court system making decisions to let patients be released from the hospital when in my opinion they are not medically stable. After two unfortunate outcomes over 15 years ago where the court allowed patients to leave the hospital, I decided to “save myself” and stop doing acute care hospital work. It was a difficult decision, but I knew I would be more functional in my personal and professional life making this tough decision. This motto of “saving myself” frequently pops into my mind when making difficult and important decisions.

After leaving hospital inpatient work, I elected to continue my practice doing outpatient and consulting work where I had more control. Medical Society involvement was another way I could impact the practice of medicine directly by influencing policy and helping colleagues. As many of you know, Lane County Medical Society started the first Physician Wellness program in 2012. Around 2014, there was an expansion of that movement to other parts of the state to develop wellness programs for physicians. I became involved with MSMP’s Physician Wellness Program as chair of their Wellness Committee. My hope is that our Medical Society will touch the lives of practitioners in a positive way.

Physicians are faced with ever increasing stresses. Here are just a few:

  • There are approximately 2.5 million new scientific papers published each year
  • We have to deal with patient satisfaction scores and provider ratings – a mixed blessing
  • We have the challenge of caring for the sickest and most vulnerable
  • We must balance the interests of business entities sometimes overriding what is best for the patient

I read a recent article that put a different spin on the concept of “burn out.” It is titled ‘Physicians Aren’t “Burning Out.” They’re Suffering from Moral Injury.’ by Simon Talbot, MD and Wendy Dean, MD, published in the July 26, 2018 STAT – online.

Physicians are the canaries in the healthcare coalmine. “They are killing themselves at alarming rates (twice that of active duty military members) signaling something is desperately wrong with the system.”

But there is a partial solution to the problem:

  • Utilize the Physician Wellness Program when you need it
  • If you notice a colleague in need, encourage them to contact the Physician Wellness Program

Now I would like to review my Presidential Goals for the next two years:

  • Increase membership and involvement of students and younger physicians in MSMP
  • Increase the awareness of MSMP’s Physician Wellness Program by networking with major healthcare systems, clinics and individual practitioners and retired members
  • Continue to share the telephone number for MSMP’s Confidential Wellness Line (503) 764- 5663

Join with me in spreading the word. Let’s keep the MSMP fires burning for another 135 years.

Thank you.

PO Box 19388, Portland, OR 97280
Phone: (503) 222-9977  |  Fax: (503) 222-3164

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