Navigating care as an MD-patient. The PHP replies

Issue: BCMJ, Vol. 60, No. 2, March 2018, page(s) 82 Letters
Andrew Clarke, MD

It’s worthwhile to give careful consideration to Dr C.P.’s experiences as an MD-patient, and the question of whether these might have been different if they were not a physician.

In providing support to physicians who are treating their colleagues, we often advise trying to treat MD-patients just like any other patient. But Dr C.P.’s account shows how our colleagues are uniquely positioned to judge the quality of the care they receive, favorably or otherwise. And the fear of being judged harshly is one of the factors that doctors frequently cite when discussing their anxiety about treating colleagues.

While it is true that the mandate of the Physician Health Program of BC is first and foremost to provide trusted, confidential one-to-one service to the physicians who call us, it is not true that we have expended “no significant effort” to foster local networks of peer support.

In 2018, we have budgeted to run a pilot peer-support group for physicians with chronic mental health issues. From this pilot project we hope to learn whether and how such a program could be scaled up and become available across the province. We also are eager to collaborate with the many local physician organizations such as divisions of family practice and medical staff associations, whose existence is now supported through the Joint Collaborative Committees (GPSC and SSC). In fact, on 3 April we are hosting a symposium on this very topic at the Doctors of BC building. Further details are available on our website (

On behalf of the PHP staff and the Steering Committee, I thank Dr C.P. for bringing attention to these complex challenges and the many initiatives now underway to address them.
—Andrew Clarke, MD, MEd, DOHS
Executive Director, Physician Health Program