Physician Health

10 of this year’s best physician Q&As

Kevin B. O'Reilly , Senior News Editor

Physicians can be healers, caregivers, scientists, advocates, change-makers and decision-makers. They also are often very busy, which is why our readers are the beneficiaries of the physicians who generously shared their personal stories, innovative approaches and stirring insights.

Help Move Medicine

Medicine doesn’t stand still, and neither do we. AMA members don’t just keep up with medicine—they shape its future.

Many of the doctors who are fighting burnout, making telehealth work in practice, advancing health equity, and inspiring others with their physician advocacy across the career spectrum have taken time from their hectic schedules this year to explore how they are moving medicine forward in exclusive, in-depth Q&A-format interviews with the AMA.

Below, find our Q&As with 10 of these physicians.

  1. How joy in practice drives Dr. Harmon in his senior years

    1. Now in his 70s, Gerald E. Harmon, MD, has earned the opportunity to retire from medicine. Besides having practiced for more than 35 years as a family physician in rural South Carolina, he has served as assistant surgeon general for the U.S. Air Force and, most recently, AMA president, from 2021 to 2022.
    2. “What would I retire from? What would I do?” Dr. Harmon said earlier this year. “I already do plenty of fun things. I hunt and I fish. I spend time with my family. I go to my grandkids’ events. I have a full life.” But Dr. Harmon, a member of the AMA Senior Physicians Section, still works 65 hours a week. For him, the pleasure of being a physician never gets old.
  2. Fight burnout by seeing each decision through well-being lens

    1. Taking on a high-stakes role such as medical director of clinical wellness at Washington Permanente Medical Group would have been a big challenge at any time. But when family physician Mary Wierusz, MD, took on the job in April 2020, she was faced with navigating the newly emergent COVID-19 pandemic in addition to the nation’s physician burnout crisis. 
    2. Washington Permanente Medical Group is a member of the AMA Health System Program, which provides enterprise solutions to equip leadership, physicians and care teams with resources to help drive the future of medicine. Dr. Wierusz detailed improvements in burnout and the need to approach every decision with a well-being lens.
    3. Far too many American physicians experience burnout. That's why, as part of its Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians, the AMA develops resources that prioritize well-being and highlight workflow changes so physicians can focus on what matters—patient care.
  3. Physician advocacy for patients with HIV gets personal

    1. As a physician working where the Upper East Side and East Harlem meet in Manhattan, Richard Silvera, MD, MPH, has a unique perspective on medicine and medical justice. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where he is an assistant professor of infectious diseases and the associate program director of the Infectious Disease Fellowship, straddles the border between one of the richest ZIP codes in the U.S. and one of the poorest.
    2. The social, political and financial disparities between these two neighborhoods would pose challenges for physicians in even the most ordinary primary care settings. But Dr. Silvera isn’t doing ordinary primary care. Most of his work is with patients living with HIV. Learn more about Dr. Silvera, part of the second cohort of the Medical Justice in Advocacy Fellowship.
  4. This resident psychiatrist stakes her claim as physician leader

    1. As a small town girl living in a rural area of Southern Mississippi born to parents who worked blue-collar jobs, AMA member Avani K. Patel, MD, MHA, always dreamed of becoming a doctor. Like her sister, also a physician, Dr. Patel looked at physicians as heroes. Dr. Patel has found ways to break barriers and biases to help patients and pave the way for other physicians like her.
    2. Dr. Patel discussed overcoming biases, her passion for advocacy and mental health, and how leadership roles help her pave the way for other physicians who look like her.
  5. Making sure Hispanic and women physicians are represented

    1. For so many years when filling out forms that asked about race or ethnicity, AMA member Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD, always checked the “other” box because she never wanted to make it seem as though one side of her heritage was more important than the other.
    2. Her father is German American and her mother is Mexican American. It took her several more years to understand what those boxes really meant. Dr. Rohr-Kirchgraber, former vice chair of the AMA Women Physicians Section, talks about diversity in medicine and how representation for Hispanic and women physicians matters.
  6. A private practice physician who keeps telemedicine close to home

    1. After working with a large primary care group and then being employed as part of a hospitalist group earlier in her career, AMA member Roxanne Tyroch, MD, took a step back and realized that private practice was calling her name. 
    2. “Private practice attracts people who have creative ideas. These physicians are willing to invest time into developing their vision into something concrete. They likely have a natural interest in the business aspect of medicine,” said Dr. Tyroch, an internist who owns and operates a solo practice called Intellimedicine in El Paso, Texas. She also is member at-large of the AMA Private Practice Physicians Section’s governing council.
    3. Learn more from Dr. Tyroch about the practice landscape and how telemedicine helps her reach more patients in the El Paso area. Supporting telehealth is another critical element of the AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians.
  7. Why we should think of the physician workforce as an ecosystem

    1. A member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes who grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Northwest Montana, AMA member  LeeAnna I. Muzquiz, MD, has served her tribal community as a family physician for more than 20 years. She also is the Association of American Indian Physicians’ representative on the AMA Minority Affairs Section’s governing council.
    2. One of her professional goals is to reimagine how medical education administrators and other stakeholders conceive of physician workforce development. One way to do that: embrace a new metaphor in conceiving what direction is needed in the doctor workforce.
  8. Meet the cardiologist who raced 13.1 miles—and then saved 2 lives

    1. Last year, AMA member Steven Lome, DO, ran a half marathon in Monterey, California. While he has always felt honored to work as a cardiologist and use his training to help others, he never thought those skills would come to use during a half marathon. But they did.
    2. Learn about Dr. Lome’s amazing story of saving two people’s lives on the race course, which landed him on NBC’s “Today” show.
  9. How one doctor works to meet the needs of 6 million patients

    1. It isn’t easy to serve as the health care advocate for a population nearing 6 million people, but for endocrinologist Meena S. Murthy, MD, it is her calling.
    2. For more than 40 years, Dr. Murthy has been working to provide early detection of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in patients living in New Brunswick, New Jersey, focusing on culturally appropriate care and support for underserved populations, including patients of South Asian descent. Dr. Murthy practices at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, part of Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, which is a member of the AMA Health System Program.
  10. To hear this ob-gyn’s pregnancy advice, patients can press play

    1. Careers in medicine and health care were all around AMA member Nariman Heshmati, MD, when he was growing up. His father, uncles and brother were all physicians, and his mom was a psychologist. Dr. Heshmati would play with toys sitting in his father’s medical practice and, when he was 10, he even set up his dad’s electronic billing for claims submissions.
    2. While he was surrounded by doctors, what made the biggest impact on his future career in medicine was seeing the work his father did as a public health director in Florida. It is why Dr. Heshmati is where he is today as a physician, leader and public health professional. Dr. Heshmati shared more about his journey, work in public health and dedication to helping patients however he can—including as a YouTuber.

The AMA is the physician’s powerful ally in patient care as an influential voice at the state and federal level that informs, guides and generates support for policies that advance meaningful health care initiatives. Visit AMA Advocacy in Action to find out what’s at stake and what the AMA is doing to address the concerns most relevant to patients and physicians.