Preserving a Life and a Career: How a Partnership Between Medicine and Psychology Saved a Physician with Anorexia Nervosa

  • Barbara Cubic
  • Daniel Bluestein

There is no doubt that serious risks are posed by impaired health care professionals. Impairment increases the likelihood of medical errors, compromised patient safety and suboptimal care. Although punitive actions are often taken, e.g., license revocation, lawsuits and imprisonment, society loses when highly knowledgeable, well-trained individuals are removed prematurely from training or the work force. A better alternative is early detection and rehabilitation. This is especially true in the case of an impaired physician, given the time and resources dedicated to medical education. There is already a dearth of physicians practicing in rural areas and pursuing certain medical specialties and the anticipated physician shortage will only make a physician a more treasured commodity in the future.

Obtaining epidemiological data about impaired physicians is difficult. Very few studies have been conducted on the topic and the available research is replete with methodological limitations. The data collection methods used do not allow for comparisons to be made between physicians and other populations, especially in regards to less prevalent conditions. Studies that are available tend to be descriptive in nature, overly reliant on data regarding medical students and residents, and utilize samples of convenience, i.e., physicians in treatment owing to impairment. To further complicate the picture, it is difficult to develop an objective definition of the term “impairment” and there are multiple incentives for physicians to project well-being and competence despite impairment.


Medical Student Body Image Anorexia Nervosa Eating Disorder Bulimia Nervosa 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barbara Cubic
    • 1
  • Daniel Bluestein
    • 2
  1. 1.Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Family and CommunityEastern Virginia Medical SchoolNorfolkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family and Community MedicineEastern Virginia Medical SchoolNorfolkUSA

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