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The Jefferson Legacy

Physician Burnout

The last issue of The Bulletin featured a penetrating story about physician burnout. In it, Salvatore Mangione, MD, maintains, “It’s the discipline’s responsibility today to prepare the next generation to hazard their own answers to the riddles of the clinic and life.”

The article got me thinking about the medical student experience—what it’s like at Jefferson now and what it was like for alumni in the past.

At events like Alumni Weekend, I love seeing alumni talk to students. “So, how’s second year treating you?” an elderly alumnus will ask. The answer’s almost always, “I’m finding it harder than last year.” The alum always nods.

Our society takes it for granted that becoming a doctor is hard work, but few understand just how challenging it can be, beyond the level of academic rigor.

Between the financial burden; having your heart broken by a patient who doesn’t recover; and the time spent completing courses, residency, and training, the stress can be overwhelming.

As in so many other ways, when it comes to supporting the student experience, Jefferson historically has always been forward-thinking.

John Kearsley Mitchell, MD, Jefferson professor of the theory and practice of medicine from 1841 to 1858, urged a sound equilibrium between reflection and amusement, writing, “He who studies always, and plays never, will not make as much solid progress as if he were to occasionally and frequently unbend and refresh a fatigued mind by agreeable relaxations.”

Today, programs like Jefferson Humanities and Health promote student balance and mindfulness through engagement in the arts and humanities, helping students gain essential skills related to healthcare, including close observation, critical thinking, communication, and empathy.

Another way the Jefferson family supports its own is through financial aid, which has been foundational to the school from the start. Article nine of Jefferson’s 1824 charter states that “ten indigent young men of talents… shall be annually received into the medical school—receive its instructions and be entitled to its honors without any charge.”

That philanthropic-minded tradition has carried on to this day, especially through gifts of endowed scholarships by alumni and benefactors.

At the 10th Annual Scholarship Dinner earlier this year, student speaker Lauren Coaxum, SKMC ’20, and holder of a Baxter Family Scholarship, said, “What drew me to Jefferson was the community, how open, collaborative, and even happy the students were. I’m blessed to be a part of it.”

The student experience is the Jefferson legacy. And that’s about more than what students receive in terms of excellence in medical knowledge, clinical skill, and learning to provide care with caring. It’s about what alumni give back. It’s about looking ahead with optimism to design the future of medicine, one student at a time. It’s about what you do right now.

Elizabeth A. Dale, EdD, MPA
Executive Vice President and
Chief Advancement Officer
Office of Institutional Advancement