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The Happy Doc

Dec 5, 2018

The term moral injury has been gaining popularity in the internet-sphere, especially after, Wendy Dean MD and Simon Talbot MD's article was released on STAT news. Moral Injury is an important topic to discuss as this terminology offers a broader understanding than the word "burnout."

Burnout is often thought of in a way that health professionals have something wrong with them: they aren't resilient enough, they need to learn to meditate or do yoga, for example. Yet moral injury suggests something larger is at play. The consequences of this terminology and mindset change are immense, as we learn that hospital dynamics, insurance, litigation, electronic medical records, and policy must evolve, for health professionals to thrive.

Learn from our guests Wendy Dean MD and Simon Talbot as we discuss moral injury and it's implications on healthcare.

Our Guests

Wendy Dean MD

"A psychiatrist by training, Dr. Dean left clinical medicine when generating revenue crowded out the patient-centered priorities in her practice.  Her focus since has been on finding innovative ways to make medicine better for both patients and physicians--technologically, ethically, and systemically. " (

Simon Talbot MD

"Dr. Talbot is a reconstructive plastic surgeon who routinely sees the most challenging clinical cases requiring a combination of surgical skill, judgment, and a strong doctor-patient relationship. He is regularly confronted with obstacles to providing the best care for these patients, and recognizes the consequent moral injury of healthcare." (

Moral injury is committing an act or failure to prevent an act that is a transgression of deeply held moral beliefs. 

Top Points

  1. "The moral injury of health care is not the offense of killing another human in the context of war. It is being unable to provide high-quality care and healing in the context of health care."
  2. Wendy has a background in Psychiatry and Military medicine. She noticed a similarity in what she was seeing in PTSD and what her colleagues were experiencing.
  3. Wendy and Simon worked together and formed a mutual bond surrounding the topic of moral injury.
  4. We learn that in our current healthcare system, the patient is not 100% our priority. Multiple surrounding factors impact our decision-making and care for patients.
  5. Strong teams and support networks help insulate some of the damage incurred from moral injury
  6. Early trainees and medical students need to accept the current landscape, understand transgressions are not personal and gain an understanding of how to better respond to the system at large.
  7. Realizing your role is to really heal people, regardless of the system, can transcend these issues
  8. Our current landscape creates a balancing act that health professionals must navigate which removes our patients from the center of focus.
  9. The phases in overcoming moral injury are as follows: 1. Awareness of the topic, 2. Assembly to bring physicians together in numbers, and 3. Advocacy to foster change in medical practice.

The Happy Doc:

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