Scribe Member Exclusive

MSMP Physician Wellness Program celebrates successes, new home with Oregon Wellness Program

When Candice Barr established the Lane County Medical Society’s (LCMS) Provider Wellness Program in 2012, she knew the key to it was confidentiality and that providers needed to talk to psychologists – without mandate and of their own choosing – who understood physicians and their practice.

It was the first such program in the country and was designed around barriers Barr, LCMS’s longtime CEO, knew kept physicians from seeking the care they needed and deserved.

“I’d been there for three decades and I really thought I understood physicians and their profession reasonably well. I knew we needed to design something really unique that they would trust,” she said, noting LCMS founded the program after losing three members to suicide the previous year.

The LCMS Provider Wellness Program had nearly 200 visits in its first two and a half years, and raised more than $600,000 to endow the program so visits could be free. Former Gov. John Kitzhaber proclaimed March 2012 as Physician Wellness Month and sent Barr a letter praising her efforts to increase awareness of physician wellness and create a program to address it.

In addition to confidentiality and the absence of a third party to mandate or monitor physician visits, the LCMS Provider Wellness Program offered faster visits, usually within 48-72 hours compared to the three to six months of other mental health programs. And the program was sanctioned by physicians for other physicians.

This was the advice Barr offered to Amanda Borges, MSMP’s executive director, when Borges sought guidance about establishing the Physician Wellness Program for health care professionals in the Portland metro area. It became the second program in the country in 2014 and quickly saw success because of its confidentiality, voluntary participation and team of psychologists who understand physicians and their practice.

“Amanda was a very quick study and was able to put this program together in record time for MSMP. The utilization in the tri-county area has been significant,” Barr said.

Over the last six years, MSMP’s counseling team has held 1,000 sessions and helped more than 200 members and nonmembers. And, while MSMP is closing at the end of the year, its Physician Wellness Program will continue to operate under the Oregon Wellness Program (OWP). Its team of psychologists will now be able to serve physicians not only in the Portland metro area, but throughout Oregon through OWP’s statewide telehealth service.

Today, there are 35 physician wellness programs across the country and Barr, who has advised many other medical societies about establishing their own, said the American Association of Medical Society Executives has published a manual to help spread the information.

Though she retired in 2016, Barr still receives requests for advice about how to establish and maintain an effective physician wellness program. “It’s been really gratifying. I spend a lot of time calling into boards of trustees’ meetings for various medical societies that want to duplicate the program. It’s been one of the honors of my life to be able to help in this way.”


To read more from the November 2020 issue, visit www.MSMP.org/The-Scribe.

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