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PRODUCED BY AND FOR MEMBERS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF SURGERY October 2013 | Archived Issues

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Surgery Chief Addresses Importance of Work Satisfaction

Bruce L. Gewertz, MD, delivered a lecture this month about the importance of surgeons finding satisfaction in their work, telling the annual meeting of the American College of Surgeons that greater fulfillment can keep physicians happier and in the workforce longer.

Gewertz, surgeon-in-chief, the H and S Nichols Distinguished Chair in Surgery and chair of the Department of Surgery, titled his lecture "Sustaining Fulfillment in Work and Life." He discussed how to achieve the type of work satisfaction necessary to remain motivated in surgical practice for an entire career.

"One needs to develop a skill set to identify and maximize personal fulfillment in work beyond mastery of the subject," Gewertz told the Clinical Congress gathering during his John J. Conley Ethics and Philosophy Lecture. "You can be the most technically proficient, financially secure surgeon, but if you don't find joy in what you do, it is a tragedy for you and the patients you serve."

Gewertz addressed the current state of joy and discontent among surgeons. He discussed research that shows why professionals are happy or unhappy in their work, and addressed key questions about what contributes to happiness: Does money make a difference? What kinds of personal relationships lead to happiness? What attitudes and behaviors influence happiness?

"It is certain that money alone won't do it," said Gewertz, vice president of Interventional Services, vice-dean of Academic Affairs and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. "You need to seek and maximize opportunities to discover the 'flow' and positivity of activities."

Gewertz has spoken about these issues in the past. In 2009, he delivered an address before the Western Surgical Association on the topic of "Life, Surgery and the Pursuit of Happiness."

In this latest lecture, Gewertz cited physician and surgeon satisfaction studies, including research by the American College of Surgeons, showing that surgeons practice more efficiently, joyfully and longer if they find greater satisfaction in their work. Not only is it an important issue on a human level for surgeons, he suggested, but it also is crucial on a societal level for surgeons to enjoy their lives and practices.

"We should encourage surgeons to practice as long as they are physically able and engaged rather than ignoring their frustration," he said. "The consequence of ignored frustration is early dropout from the surgery workforce."