Why Older Physicians Should Write

03/16/2015 12:02 pm ET | Updated May 16, 2015


Experiment 1. Stop five random people on your way to work and ask them to name the top public advocates of health and wellness that come to mind.

Do I dare speculate that more than a few would mention Dr. Oz. or Jenny McCarthy?

Experiment 2. Stop five medical colleagues and ask them to list their top physician writers and journalists.

Do I dare speculate that more than a few would only have two or three names to mention?

These janky thought experiments should suggest to you as a health care professional that there remains a serious lack of academic medical figures widely advocating for improved public health and a stronger sense of community within the field of medicine.

Writing has become an integral component to my medical career and has brought me great pride and self-worth, but I am not promoting myself or soliciting other young physicians to step up to this near-empty plate. I'm asking you -- the gray-haired physician in the winter of his or her career -- to start writing, too.

Here's why.


A huge limitation to the scope and influence of young writers is our short experience and engagement in the field of medicine. Sure, you might take a gander at a piece that I'll write regarding the life of a fumbling resident physician, but how much will you really take away from my fickle opinions on tort reform or practice consolidation?

You've been through the thick and thin during your extensive career in medicine and you have both opinions and the experience to back them up. For every seasoned outlook or career lesson that you may have, there are innumerable potential readers, such as myself, scouring social media and health care news sites hoping to read and learn from that.


Coming from a family of physicians, I have seen the fidgety, sub-clinically ADD, semi-retired physician holding on fast to his or her scant clinic hours and lackluster hospital board meetings. Physicians at the twilight of their medical practice find much self-worth in their career; many are resistant to completely disengage from the medical field.

Educating younger peers and the public through medical writing can be a long-lasting solution for many older physicians who want to stay engaged in medicine but no longer wish to practice.


For all the insightful, educational and meaningful medical pieces published in the public ether, there are twice as many misguided, misinformed and destructive medical fallacies ready to be misinterpreted as sound medical advice by the lay reader. A prospective study published in BMJ in late 2014 led by Christina Korownyk, MD, CCFP, of the University of Alberta found that about half of all medical recommendations made during highly watched medical talk shows had any evidence-based backing (let alone well-established evidence).

Expertise-based and evidence-backed public medical content is at war with this dirty material, and I often question who is winning.

It will take seasoned physicians, like you and your colleagues, to provide your much-needed mentorship, experience and opinion to advocate for improved public health awareness and physician well-being.

Take-home point

Instead of droning on about the many other individual and public benefits that seasoned physician-writers may bring to the table by disseminating their thoughts and opinions, I will instead offer you the final experiment:

Experiment 3. Block off 5-10 hours of your week. Sit down and make a list of medical topics that interest you.

Start writing.

Originally written for LeadDoc